Dickens’ ‘Carol’ goes happily off-key in ‘Bah, Humbug!’
Piccolo Theatre Presents: Bah Humbug! by Tina and Robert Burbidge, a retelling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, panto-fashion, with merry songs, cross-dressing and magic of course! Directed by John Szostek, Managing Director Amanda Kulczewski, photography ©2012 Robert Erving Potter III REP3, Marketing Coordinator Rachel Bykowski. Music and lyrics by Rich Maisel.
Piccolo Theatre, 600 Main St., Evanston
7:30 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 22
$25 adults, $22 seniors and $10 students
(847) 424-0089 or www.piccolotheatre.com
Updated: November 23, 2012 5:33PM
The panto is on again.
For the 12th year in a row, Piccolo Theatre is borrowing a British holiday tradition and diverting audiences with a cheery, if offbeat, entertainment known as a panto (short for pantomime).
The latest panto, “Bah, Humbug!” parodies “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ classic tale of transformation. A playful takeoff, it has all the elements you would expect in the genre — slapstick, double entendres, sight gags, magic and cross-gender characters. There’s also outlandish music and clever lyrics written by Rich Maisel.
Another attraction — especially for children in the audience — a carte blanche to boo villains and loudly cheer mistreated heroes, adds to the appeal of “Bah, Humbug!” Adults can also enjoy the topical gibes at Facebook, the Tea Party, the Cubs and a certain disgraced U.S. general currently in the news.
Director John Szostek explains in a program note that one of the earmarks of the panto is “to take a well-known story and give it a topsy-turvy treatment.”
On that score, Tina and Robert Burbidge, the creative authors of “Bah, Humug!” fully succeed.
The basic framework of Dickens’ story is there, with miserly Scrooge (Nathan Thompson) irascible and tormenting his hapless clerk Bob Cratchit (Andrew Huttel). And as in the classic, he rudely rebuffs do-gooders collecting alms for the poor, delightfully represented by Cadgit (Allison Lynn Tyler) and Beggit (Katie McDermott).
Cratchit’s lame son Tiny Tim, traditionally a saintly lad, is here played by a girl (Genesee Spridco), and a nasty piece of work.
Scrooge’s former business mentor, the late Jacob Marley (smartly played by Ben Muller), returns from the netherworld to warn his old associate to change his ways, but Scrooge is unimpressed, exclaiming: “I’ve seen better ghosts at the Goodman.”
There’s also some spirited in-fighting among Scrooge’s three nocturnal ghostly visitors: Christmas Present (Paige Reilly), Christmas Past (Alyson Grauer) and Christmas Future (Kurt Proepper).
Meanwhile, Jason Peck does a fine turn as the dame, Belle, who in younger days briefly turned the head of a young Scrooge. Though he is an actual British actor, no one in the cast is willing to correctly place his accent.
A two-dimensional toy box-like set works well in this production where the actors themselves assume a cartoonish demeanor with the help of bizarre wigs, exaggerated makeup and funky costumes.
If, as Szostek observes, the panto was Dickens’ favorite form of entertainment, it’s safe to say the late author would look with great favor on “Bah, Humbug!”