A CAROL CHRISTMAS: A NEW MUSICAL

Is Carol going to be coming?
                                Someone asking if Carol will attend her niece’s Christmas party

Hallelujah! I have found a show that doesn’t cause a dark shadow over Christmas. I like English writer Charles Dickens, but, his A Christmas Carol book and subsequent movies is mortifying and discouraging. Who wants to be depressed over the holidays? There’s a lot of that going around. Watching a movie or reading a book is supposed to uplift your spirit not wanting to bypass it on purpose. Then, you’ll be called Mr. Scrooge. Who wants that? Luckily for the audience, director Bruce Kimmel spread some Christmas magic and adapted the classic story into something fun, amusing and woman power strong.

Carol (Hartley Powers does an amazing job) is an accomplished ad exec at Lora Company in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She’s annoyed that everyone has drank the Christmas Kool-Aid and is more concerned with the holiday than working on it. She shuts down relationships with her niece Fiona (Emily Barnett) and love interest Blake (John Schroeder kills it). On Christmas Eve, she does a video promo with a sweet southern drawl then goes back to boss mode. Neither Blake nor Fiona can get Carol to slow her roll. She does, however, manage to take a nap in her office after being pulled in some many directions. She has a vivid dream of a woman coming in to change her life. That would be Mabel (Debi Tinsley). Mabel is a colorful, spunky type of psychic that gives Carol a gift from beyond the grave. Carol pops in a DVD from her late former partner Joelle (the spirited Janet Wood singing “The Message”) warning her that three visitors are coming for her. Carol wakes up and dismisses the warning.

Suddenly, Odette (Suzan Solomon) appears and shows Carol how she was early in her career. Carol was a new intern at Forresters & Company ad agency. It’s the annual Christmas party and Carol joins in the fun (“This Party’s Just for You”). At the time, Blake was in medical school studying to be a heart surgeon, while, working at Forester & Forester during the holiday break. We learn that Carol had ambition in becoming a fashion designer. She was determined to make it in business no matter what. However, she soon discovers how arduous and isolated the journey can be. She admits this to herself when she says, “I don’t have time to be lonely,” so she breaks up with Blake and goes to New York (“Separate Ways”).

Her final visit is from a Russian clairvoyant named Karina (Janet Wood pulling double duty in a second role with ease). Karina is there for clarity and vision. She tells Carol to take a drink (“Owaska Tea”) then, they visit her niece’s Christmas party. Carol melts when she hears Fiona say how much she loves her aunt and wishes she was at the party. Fiona introduces her guests to her fiancé Howie (the handsome and talented Ryan J. Duncan) and gladly says that she’s “excited to be an honorary Jew.” The High Priestess (Monica Allan) warns Carol that if she doesn’t change she will be doomed. She already lost her man, her niece what else is there? Then, Carol gets a visit from Mr. Death (Lloyd Pedersen had me laughing uncontrollably) and the Death-ettes (“Shuffle Off this Mortal Coil”) and quickly decides to be a better person. Being surrounded by the cute and in sync carolers (Celine June Bautista, Ellie Birdwell, Andrew Grigorian, Chihiro Kato and Momoka Kato), softens Carol’s demeanor.

Finally, Carol listens and understands. She wakes up with a new energy and outlook on life. First, she stops at Fiona’s house for the Christmas party she always refused to attend. Then, she quickly makes it to employee Blyth’s (Savannah Schoenecker) home to visit Blyth’s sick daughter Trina (Peyton Kirkner does an excellent job). She makes Blyth her new partner. Christmas eggnog for everyone! And of course, Blake and she reunite. Carol is happy and Christmas can end on a much joyful note.

A Carol Christmas plays Friday and Saturday night at 8 PM and Sunday at 2 pm until December 30th at the Lonny Chapman Theatre, located at 10900 Burbank Blvd in North Hollywood. For reservations, call 818-763-5990 or visit www.thegrouprep.com.


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