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A Chorus of Carols.

November 30, 2014

A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL_927-65_RMODA Christmas Carol at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre begins with a Steam Punk Chorus singing many the traditional carols of the season. To these seemingly straight forward renditions, ZJU ads a dash of winter spice to the mix, in the form of comedy. The Steam Punk Chorus adds this dash of comedy through their gestures, and emphasis on certain lines. Such as the men in the Chorus singing the line about all the men they haven’t kissed this year. There is even a bit of shiny distraction, with one member of the Chorus over using the tambourine, to the distraction of others.

ChristmasCarol2014@ZJU_SteamPunkChorusThe use of music plays a key role in this rendition of A Christmas Carol. Throughout the Play, at key moments, transitions, or scene changes classic carols fill the air. Not only does music fill the air, live violin music provided by Lara Lihiya strikes powerful emotional cords. Music is a powerful tool in storytelling; it can set the mood, provide the undercurrent of emotion for a scene, or draw the threads of the story together. While it’s a powerful tool, it needs to be used judiciously, its magic subtle. Denise Devin (director) wove the carols through the show beautifully. The music showing up, and fading out in just the right places. Speaking of fading in and out, the “curtain” used between scenes was brilliant. Aside from using the darkness of the black box theatre; the Steam Punk Chorus came out with dim spheres of light, acting as spirits singing to us, guiding us from scene to scene. The pitch black, with dim spheres and song added a magical quality to the transitions.

I mentioned earlier that the Steam Punk Chorus brought a dash of comedy to their carols. This dash of comedy continued throughout the entire show. A Christmas Carol is a powerful story, of hope and redemption. While powerful and moving, it can be a dry affair, Victorian London wasn’t known for its humour. Denise’s adaptation added just the right level of humour to elicit laughs from the audience, while still keeping the poignant power of Dickens’ story intact. From a very flamboyant Spirit of Christmas Present (Denise Devin), to Fred (AJ Sclafani) doing card tricks, from time to time. Humour ran throughout the show, while not distracting from the story. It allowed the audience to connect with the characters that much more, I feel. You can’t help but connect with someone when the make you laugh, put a smile on your face.

The acting was also on point. Mrs. Cratchit (Redetha Deason) personified a Victorian wife, loving dutiful, even though she has a strong will of her own. Redetha brought this to the surface quite nicely. You could feel the force of her presence tempered with her affections for Bob Cratchit (Jason Britt). Speaking of Bob, you felt his pain, and his determination to keep a stiff upper lip. Worse still, emotionally speaking, you could see that stiff upper lip quiver and crumble when the Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come allows Scrooge (Sebastian Munoz) to look upon the Cratchit’s. Bob is devastated by the loss of Tiny Tim (Courtney Drumm), it’s etched on his face, his movement, and echoes in his voice.

Scenes with Tiny Tim are a joy to watch, Courtney brings life and vibrance to Tiny Tim. Tiny Tim is alwasye hopeful, and you can sense that though Courtney. The star of the show is of course Scrooge. Sebastian brings Scrooge to life, nailing down the transformation he undergoes through his journey. From miserly, through fearful, to hopeful and begging, eventually winding up a changed man. All without a makeup change. Sebastian brings about this change through posture, mannerisms, and a gradual change in his voice. He goes through such a wide array of emotional voice modulation, it’s powerful.

I should not be surprised, that Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre delivered a powerful performance. In a way I’m not, and I am. ZJU are masters of the macabre, and avante garde. They are so good at the edgy fringe of theatre that it’s easy to forget, they are also a proper playhouse, with talented writers, directors, and actors. I think this is a good thing in a way. One gets so used to the macabre, and strange, that when a classical work is put forward it’s that much more powerful, because they can consistently deliver powerful classical theatre. It’s a treat to be reminded how talented and versatile the folks at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group are.

ChristmasCarol2014@ZJU_CastPic1

A Christmas Carol (adapted and directed by Denise Devin) runs Saturdays and Sundays through December 28th in North Hollywood.

For more information please visit www.zombiejoes.com

All Photos Credit: Zombie Joe’s Underground.

From → Reviews

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