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Wednesday, Dec. 9, 2009

In Tandem’s Sassy, Salacious ‘Scrooge’ Delights

Theater Review

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The holiday season is box-office gold for performing arts groups, which out of economic necessity tend to follow the mantra of “give the people what they want,” resulting in predictable, if well-done, offerings of The Nutcracker, A Christmas Carol and Handel’s Messiah. These staples are so well worn that even productions that spoof the originals can seem trite.

Thankfully, In Tandem Theatre scores another comic hit with its decidedly irreverent Scrooge in Rouge, playing at the Tenth Street Theatre through Jan. 3, 2010.

Set in a turn-of-the-century British music hall, the premise of Scrooge is simple enough: A 23-member theater troupe is laid low by a case of food poisoning (announced with a recorded bout of group flatulence that would make Mel Brooks proud), leaving just a trio of exasperated and unprepared actors left to portray all the roles in a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

After some chaotic hand-wringing and brow-mopping, the intestinal survivors decide that the show must go on, and do their hilariously inept best to pull off the feat, dealing with one disaster after another. The script by Ricky Graham is uniformly sidesplitting, if somewhat uneven. Really clever bits are sometimes followed by groan-inducing puns, but it’s all done tongue-in-cheek, nudge-nudge wink-wink, and the audience is in on the joke, so it works.

The real treat here are the performances. In Tandem Artistic Director Chris Flieller and Marcella Kearns generate their share of laughs as they change characters and costumes at an unbelievable pace. One can almost feel sorry for them, however, as the meatiest role is devoured with aplomb by Matt Daniels, whose bumbling, buxom Lottie had the audience roaring with each pratfall and miscue. His Ghost of Christmas Present, especially, a mix of Lady Gaga and Joanna Lumley’s “Ab Fab” diva Patsy, had the audience gasping for air.

In the age of teenage sexting, it is perhaps old-fashioned to caution that the humor in Scrooge can be very bawdy indeed, and that the show might be best enjoyed by adults. Those fortunate enough to obtain tickets can look forward to a refreshing, if somewhat ribald, evening of comedy.

In Tandem Theatre’s Scrooge in Rouge continues through Jan. 3, 2010.

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