My boy Milo is a Christmas Carol nut. Every year we see Scrooged, the Mr. Magoo classic, Alastair Sim’s, Albert Finney’s and Jim Carrey’s portrayals of the holiday curmudgeon. We also see the Ulster Ballet’s charming dance version of the Dickens classic, where the allure is always split between the presence of so many friends’ kids in the cast and the memorable appearance of “that dude with the scary chains,” as my five-year-old calls the ghost of Marley.
Now he’s ready to add the Woodstock Playhouse to our annual round of holiday productions, given the way that he responded to its new production of the modern Broadway classic, A Christmas Carol: The Musical, which premiered in the early 1990s when composer Alan Menken of Disney fame was at his award-winning peak. As is fast becoming the signature of the Playhouse – which reopened as a sparkling indoor theatrical venue this summer after a full renovation by the Hurley-based New York Conservatory of the Arts (NYCA) all last year – the new performance is peppy and fast-paced, with a live band and the Flying by Foy theatrics that NYCA has made a trademark of its annual shows at the Ulster Performing Arts Center (UPAC) in Kingston.
“We’re crazy,” Ray Conti said when asked about his troupe’s new schedule, balancing a summer repertory season that included performances of A Chorus Line, Anything Goes and Hair with concert performances, film festival rentals and the ongoing full-time work of NYCA classes and performances. “But it’s like we’re this big expanding family now.”
Conti has directed and choreographed this new production of the classic – which ran repeatedly at Madison Square Garden’s theater from 1994 to 2004, before ending up a Hallmark special starring Kelsey Grammar – while his partner Douglas Farrell not only served as vocal director, but plays a great Ebenezer Scrooge as well.
Over the years, this version’s Scrooge has been sung and danced by the likes of Tony Randall, Frank Langella, Tim Curry, F. Murray Abraham and Roger Daltrey, showing some real legs in the long run.
A Christmas Carol: The Musical, by Alan Menken with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, runs at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 2 and 3, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, December 4. The Playhouse box office is open Mondays through Wednesdays from 4 to 7 p.m., as well as during showtime. Tickets can also be purchased online. The Playhouse is located at 103 Mill Hill Road, near the gateway to town. For further information call (845) 679-6900 or visit ulsterpub.staging.wpengineplayhouse.org.