Now in its twenty seventh yr, Huge Apple Comedian Con Hosts A Seasonal Celebration for Geeks and Nerds — The Christmas Con

It looks like probably the most Christmas-y factor to do, after seeing Chris, Mrs. – A New Vacation Musical final week, is to go to Niagara-on-the-Lake and take within the Shaw Competition‘s two vacation season exhibits – A Christmas Carol and Lerner & Loewe’s Brigadoon. What could possibly be extra good? The city feels as joyously festive as you possibly can think about, crammed to overflowing with twinkling lights and vacation wreaths a-plenty in all places you look. We even noticed Santa Claus trip by on the tail finish of their Christmas parade on Saturday afternoon as we made our approach to the matinee on the essential Competition Stage. It was a wonderful two days, consuming Bailey’s Lattes within the musical’s interval, and seeing a very good buddy from my faculty days within the York College theatre division. It couldn’t be any extra seasonal than that. I even managed to look at my favourite movie, “Fiddler on the Roof” as soon as I acquired residence from the matinee. And what a wonderful ending that was.

As if made to order, the primary up was the traditional Charles Dickens story, A Christmas Carol, based mostly on a novella first revealed in London in 1843, however right here on the Shaw Competition, we’re given a pantomime posturing, tailored (and initially directed) by Tim Carroll. A Christmas Carol dutifully and singingly recounts the story of the aged miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who after exhibiting us his bah-humbugged nature on Christmas Eve, is visited by the ghost of his former enterprise accomplice, Jacob Marley, adopted by three spirits decided to soften his chilly darkish coronary heart; Christmas Previous, Current, and the one But to Come, in order that he might even see the worth of human kindness and generosity. And after their eye-opening visits, Scrooge is reworked, miraculously, into a person crammed to the Christmas brim with kindness and love. It’s the warmest of tales, and when instructed proper, does the vacation trick with ease.

Sanjay Talwar as Ebenezer Scrooge, with Shawn Wright and Kiana Woo, in A Christmas Carol (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

It appears this manufacturing is a stable staple of Christmas in Niagara-on-the-Lake, and I’ve at all times cherished and embraced all of the completely different tellings of it, from the legendary 1951 “Scrooge” starring Alastair Sim (the B&W model solely, please, if I’ll say so. Not the colorized model), via probably the most fantastic 1992 “The Muppet Christmas Carol“ all the best way to the 2019 FX magnificent and darkish gothic adaptation collection of “A Christmas Carol” starring Man Pierce. All are glorious in their very own approach, form, and type. So I used to be trying ahead to seeing what the Shaw Competition had in retailer for us, however I need to admit I hoped for a darker and extra adult-focused adaptation of A Christmas Carol than what the competition had in thoughts. Which, I’ll add, is totally affordable, and had I given it extra preshow thought, I ought to have identified that the main focus could be on a extra family-friendly strategy than the extra gothic variations I noticed on Broadway final yr and the years earlier than that; the Outdated Vic model and the one-Mays extravaganza, each glorious in their very own method.

Directed this time at Shaw by Brendan McMurtry-Howlett (Theatre Middle’s After the Hearth), their Christmas Carol rings itself into our hearts earlier than the lights even dim. It’s all sweetness and carols, taking part in with the comedian bits on equal footing to the extra poignant ones. Scary it isn’t, which from the seems to be of all the youngsters round me and the way engrossed all of them have been, this manufacturing, as offered with puppets and pantomime, finds simply the suitable tone and vitality to hold us via gently and charmingly. I did miss the strain, particularly within the first traditional scene inside, what ought to have been the chilly and heartless workplace of Ebenezer Scrooge, performed with nice coronary heart and dedication by Sanjay Talwar (Shaw’s Prince Caspian), the place a chilly Bob Cratchit, portrayed clearly by Andrew Lawrie (Shaw’s The Playboy of the Western World), sits working diligently, fearful of his employer and subsequently, freezing within the darkness at his desk. However right here, contained in the Shaw‘s Christmas Carol, the scene is performed towards a really vibrant and charming portray of the city we’re all in, Niagara-on-the-Lake, with a crisp candy blanket of snow masking the wreath-lined streets, with the distinctive clock tower within the middle, identical to it’s proper exterior the door of the Royal George Theatre. Fairly and charming.

Sanjay Talwar as Ebenezer Scrooge and Élodie Gillett as Christmas Previous in A Christmas Carol (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

it’s a mild loving visible, one which labored extraordinarily nicely with the carolers who usher us into the theatrical world of Dicken’s gothic novella story, with introduction calendar home windows and doorways able to be utilized within the playful approach this manufacturing has supposed, no less than on this first scene. After the carols are sung with bells a-chiming, a girl and a door grow to be Scrooge’s desk that he bends over with dedication and greed, and an introduction opening turns into a door, held true by Lawrie’s Cratchit, a door that flings itself down into his lap to grow to be his small work desk. It’s a really cute playful endeavor, prolonged to the 2 actors who grow to be Scrooge’s armchair at residence the place he eats his stew on their lonesome at midnight after it’s served up by Mrs. Dilber, portrayed by Patty Jamieson (Shaw’s Mom, Daughter). However then, that playful humans-as-furniture falls away, by no means to return once more.

It was a structuring that I wasn’t pining for its return, to be sincere, because the setting, as designed by Christine Lohre (Shaw’s Charley’s Aunt) who is also credited with the advantageous costumes, may have simply used some actual stable items of furnishings for these two scenes, and possibly utilized the magnificent darker background for the workplace, a vista that was used hereafter to nice outcomes, as this darker backgrounds would have served the story much better than the sunshine silliness that these introduction concepts offered. It will have given the play a extra aligned temper and environment, however possibly not within the flinging-of-snow type of cute approach this manufacturing had in thoughts.

Kiana Woo as Tiny Tim puppeteer, Tiny Tim and Andrew Lawrie as Bob Cratchit, with the forged of A Christmas Carol (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

As soon as once more, I feel I used to be in need of a darker journey normally, however after these preliminary moments, the visuals improved, even when made jolly by the motion and puppetry of Alexis Milligan (Shaw’s The Horse and His Boy), drawing forth the headless ghost of Mr. Marley and people different ghosts from the current and the long run. Nonetheless, in that different second with the Ghost of Christmas Current, embodied with comedian chops by Shawn Wright (Mirvish’s Harry Potter…), the scene shifts from the sturdy use of these small flying puppets to the precise flesh and blood Scrooge peering in on a festive feast and recreation performed out towards him. I wasn’t satisfied that his bodily full-sized presence was wanted for that one scene to seek out its connective tissue, because the flying small puppet that he had grow to be for this journey was working its magic on us all through this present-day visitation. And the shift, as with many concepts used, after which dropped, felt like unneeded whiplash of the inventive order.

The headless antics between Scrooge and Marley additionally felt a bit off, in my guide, however the floating hat is a enjoyable visible that delighted the children round me, as is the swinging child-like approach that the primary visitation, that of the Ghost of Christmas Previous, performed most pleasantly by assistant director Élodie Gillett (Shaw’s On the Razzle), unpacks the historical past lesson with using shadow puppetry on the mattress curtains of Mr. Scrooge. It’s the proper antidote for sturdy storytelling and edgy visuals, a component that elevates the manufacturing to the next energy.

Sanjay Talwar as Ebenezer Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas But to Are available A Christmas Carol (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

Comedy appears to be the go-to vibe within the Shaw manufacturing, with extraneous bits of humor performed out by a flaming present-day ghost on curler skates and a younger child with a kite. It’s amusing, particularly for the children, however someway the telling of this story by no means utterly captivated my coronary heart or my soul. However with the ghost of Christmas Future, looming over the fearful Scrooge, I lastly caught on to the surprise of this manufacturing. It’s fearsome, whereas additionally visually attention-grabbing within the flowing approach the whiteness is draped over a cranium’s head and palms, emphasised nicely by the lighting design of Kevin Lamotte (Shaw’s The Clearing).

However what follows that well-crafted graveyard scene made me query the framework as soon as once more. The forged all comes out of the shadows to sing an pointless and oddly positioned ditty, “Put a Little Love In Your Coronary heart” as Scrooge sleeps the remainder of Christmas Eve away. I did form of lean again in my seat, questioning the place that matches in with Dickens and his world. I additionally didn’t see using that wandering cat, to be frank. Does that make me a Grinch or a Scrooge? I don’t suppose so, however possibly a really tremendous family-friendly A Christmas Carol was not on my Santa want record that night time. I can’t say, however I’ll say, if you’re in Niagara-on-the-Lake for a night (or weekend afternoon) with a number of kids in tow, that is the vacation present for you and your lot. It provides you that Christmas Carol cathartic pleasure in the long run, and that’s actually what this present is all about, whether or not it begins out in darkness or within the mild of a picture-perfect introduction calendar with doorways that grow to be desks, and the place snow is flung within the air each time one comes or goes.

David Andrew Reid as Charlie Dalrymple with Graeme Kitagawa, Jordan Mah and the forged of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

Over on the principle stage of the Shaw Competition, there’s a completely different type of present that’s positively extra my cup of tea, or ought to I say, extra my large cup of Scotch Whiskey. For this identical vacation season, the competition has introduced forth, as soon as once more, Lerner and Loewe’s 1947 traditional, Brigadoon, and has discovered the method to ship it forth in spectacularly good type. It’s an excellent, attractive manufacturing, revived from 2019, that’s most positively worthy of a highway journey from Toronto simply to wallow in its wonderfulness. The musical, with an authentic guide and lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner (and a revised guide by Brian Hill) and music by Frederick Loewe, is as Scottish as you may get from these first strongly crafted notes performed most dynamically by the ShawFestival orchestra, with musical path by Paul Sportelli (Shaw’s Gypsy) and a powerful sound design by John Lott (Shaw’s Sweeney Todd), to the beautiful romantic ending introduced forth out of the fog by the highly effective and completely sung “There However For You Go I“.

This present really is a giant heat slice of the golden age of Broadway, residing within the foggy highlands of Scotland simply ready to be discovered as soon as once more inside its infectious loving songs and characters. It’s whimsical and fantastic in its undercurrent, and though I couldn’t assist myself however ponder the hilariously misplaced parallels to Apple+’s “Schmigadoon!“, I additionally discovered myself misplaced in a beautiful dream, identical to these two males within the glory and fantastic thing about Brigadoon. And glad the forged didn’t abide by or persist with these conventional Scottish kilt-dressing guidelines. That may have been a special type of present with all these excessive Highland kicks and dance strikes.

All of it begins because it did for these two characters in “Schmigadoon!“, misplaced within the Scottish woods, speaking about real love and marriage. However this time round it’s 1946, and the misplaced souls who’re about to be discovered are two American GI males, recent (and nonetheless haunted) by the warfare. The love they’re discussing lives, or possibly doesn’t, contained in the sad Tommy, fantastically embodied by the vocally-gifted Stewart Adam McKensy (Stratford’s Hairspray), in Scotland on a bachelor weekend together with his finest buddy, Jeff, performed to hilarious perfection by Kevin McLachlan (Shaw’s Gypsy). They’re out and about searching within the highlands, misplaced and searching for a approach out, when, out of the fog, they discover themselves an unmapped city referred to as Brigadoon, stuffed with inhabitants not of the GI’s time and state of mind.

The forged of Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

The city, as created by set designer Pam Johnson (Vancouver Playhouse’s Equus), actually emerges from the fog most dynamically and fantastically, assisted strongly by the projections designed by Corwin Ferguson (Stratford’s Hire). It’s gorgeously crafted, filling our hearts with quaint concepts of when life was (mystically) simpler and happier. The 2 males can’t assist however discover the happiness, and the dearth of telephones and any data of the skin ‘trendy’ world. For one in every of them, Tommy, that is an escapist reward and secret want success. However for Jeff, it’s only a humorous distraction and presumably a mirage or dream state, of some kind, one which they’re certain to wake from any minute.

The city folks, straight out of a Scottish clan catalogue, appear to be caught within the yr 1746, fortunately engaged and excited for the marriage day of two of their townsfolk. However not everyone seems to be leaping excessive, singing a merry show-stopping tune entitled, “I’ll Go House with Bonnie Jean” – a powerful presentation, due to the dynamic choreography of Linda Garneau (Citadel’s The Curious Incident…). There may be one Scottish son, the brooding Harry Beaton, performed true by Travis Seetoo (Shaw’s Everyone), who, like Tommy, needs for an escape. Not from the identical place, nor as a result of he questions his love like Tommy does, however as a result of he’s heartbroken and overwhelmed with love for the beautiful Jean MacLaren, tenderly portrayed by Madelyn Kriese (Gateway’s Fiddler on the Roof). Sadly for Harry, she is about to be married to a different; the one kicking up his heels with pleasure and pleasure, the bubbling Charlie Dalrymple, powerfully embodied by a dynamic David Andrew Reid (Shaw’s Rattling Yankees). A capsule that’s too arduous and bitter for poor Harry to swallow, day after day.

However all that’s secondary, in a approach, to the principle magical motive these two American males discover themselves conflicted and in opposition to 1 one other about what they need to do, what they need to do, and the place they need to be. The shortly love-struck Tommy finds himself questioning every little thing, particularly the sentiments he ought to have for his fiance again in New York, and the girl, the gorgeous Fiona MacLaren, portrayed by the gloriously gifted Alexis Gordon (Stratford’s Carousel), whom he simply met gathering “The Heather on the Hill” for the marriage of her sister. Inside moments, and some fantastically rendered songs, akin to Gordon’s “Waitin’ For My Dearie” and the spectacular duet, “Nearly Like Being in Love“, the 2 fall madly and deeply in love, and Tommy can’t determine what he needs to do; whether or not he ought to return to New York to marry somebody he thinks he doesn’t actually love, or ought to he ceaselessly stay in Brigadoon together with his newfound love, however with an unknown ending to their story.

Genny Sermonia as Maggie Anderson, Alexis Gordon as Fiona MacLaren, Kristi Frank as Meg Brockie, Madelyn Kriese as Jean MacLaren, with Jenny L. Wright as Aileen MacFarlane in Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

The fantastic rating couldn’t be extra sweeping and gorgeously carried out and sung by a forged that’s absolute perfection. Their skilled vocals and their intricate and spirited dance strikes are displayed all through; at each sword dance and marriage ceremony day packin’ up. The musical couldn’t be extra interesting if it tried, and as directed with an skilled hand for romantic melodrama and emotional revelations by Glynis Leyshon (Shaw’s The Youngsters’s Hour), Brigadoon finds its approach fantastically via the fog, embracing the romanticism that’s at its core, whereas by no means sidestepping the humor and the enjoyment that’s inherent to the story.
Probably the greatest highlights, past McLachlan’s magnificent finest buddy embodiment of a Danny Kaye perspective and perspective, is Kristi Frank (Grand Theatre’s Shrek) because the fireball Meg, delivering two of one of the best and good humorous songs of the present; the deliciously pleasant “The Love of My Life” and the impossibly enjoyable “My Mom’s Weddin’ Day.” She jogged my memory of the ‘Can’t Say NoOklahoma! gal, Ado Annie, however all wearing Scottish purple but equally prepared, for a romp at a second’s discover. Frank shines so so vibrant on this fantastical half, throwing herself totally into its supply with a wild dynamic vitality that’s infectious. In the identical energetic expressive vein, it will even be felony to not give a shout-out to the mournful dance that’s fantastically finished by an endearing Genny Sermonia (Shaw’s Candy Charity) because the heartbroken younger lassy by the title of Maggie. I’m often not taken in by these moments in traditional musicals when dance takes over in that approach, however with Sermonia channelling some side and really feel of the unique Agnes DeMille dance framing, the emotional vitality is nicely spent and far appreciated.

The highest-heavy however magnificent Brigadoon, with an Act One which feels twice as large and beautifully because the slim Second Act, unfolds like a romantic storybook, fantastically dropped at life due to the spectacular work by set designer Johnson, lighting designer Kevin Lamotte (Shaw’s Vacation Inn), and the gorgeous costuming by Sue LePage (Blyth Competition’s Liars at a Funeral). It’s precisely the Scotch Mist I hoped for throughout this two day go to to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and with this dynamic enjoyable present, as fantastically rendered as one may hope for, a Christmas want was granted. So, for this present (not like the opposite), depart these youngsters at residence with the babysitter, and get your self into city the place goodness reigns and real love can take many types, nicely, no less than in Brigadoon, and in “Schmigadoon!” for that matter. As a result of this present is nearly as good because it will get this vacation season.

David Adams as Archie Beaton, Kevin McLachlan as Jeff Douglas, and Kristi Frank as Meg Brockie in Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

Brigadoon and A Christmas Carol play on the Shaw Competition in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario via December 23, 2023. For data and tickets, click on right here.

Stewart Adam McKensy as Tommy Albright and Alexis Gordon as Fiona MacLaren in Lerner and Loewe’s Brigadoon (Shaw Competition, 2023). Photograph by David Cooper.

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