By Claire DeMarco, ‘Burgh Vivant
It’s 1944 in Picatinny, New Jersey and time for the annual production of “A Christmas Carol” at the VFW. However, since most of the men are serving overseas there’s a dearth of men available to play the necessary parts. The Carol Sisters: Lily (Moira Quigley) Rose (Mandie Russak) and Silvia (Lizzy Boyke) decide to play the male roles themselves.
Lily is the coordinator who encourages and oversees this project. She is sincere and energetic while Silvia is so intent on success that she insists that Eleanor Roosevelt attend (if only she is asked). Scatter brain Rose has her own potential audience selected – the nearby military base where there are lots of men!
Joining the Carols in pulling off this production are three totally unique, unusual people. Melvin Shaatz (Marc Moritz) is an out-of-work tap dancing Jewish comedian who is the only person who answered their audition call. Ornery Miss Betty (Beth Johnstone Bush) works at the VFW, epitomizes an acquaintance we all know, put up with and sometimes even like. Teddy (Douglas Levine) completes the circle as the limping piano player.
Rehearsals begin and the story line takes on a life of its own, deviating at times from Charles Dickens’ famous fictional tale.
But the show – in all its mutations – does go on!!!
Quigley’s lovely singling voice is consistent throughout the production, highlighted by ‘What’s Wrong with Right Now.”
Delightful as flighty Rose, Russak’s determination to pronounce every letter in every word she speaks (like Gee-host for ghost) is consistent, funny and timed perfectly.
Boyke has an innocence and sincerity about her as she continues her quest to entice the First Lady to attend their VFW production.
Together Quigley, Russak and Boyke have wonderful harmony, at times singing A capella.
Bush subtly moves her character from a crotchety woman to one who shows a semblance of sensitivity and optimism. She and Moritz do a takeoff on the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First Routine” which is both funny and intricate.
Moritz cleverly portrays the Jewish entertainer inserting Yiddish phrases into the Christmas-themed story.
The ensemble works well together. Their movements and singing are top notch and their facial expressions help define the characters they play.
Levine has a small role as Teddy but a larger part as the Pianist throughout the show.
Deftly co-directed by Erika Cuenca and Robyne Parrish, and kudos to the all-female production team.
“The Carols” is produced by Off the Wall Productions at Carnegie Stage, 25 West Main Street., Carnegie, PA 15106 and runs from November 29 – December 14, 2019. For more information, click here.