MOS’ ‘Scrooge’ unwraps Christmas cheer

A key component to keeping Christmas entertainment poignant is children. Last weekend at the Historic Iao Theater, “Scrooge – the Musical” opened with a half dozen kids singing traditional Christmas carols. That opening evolved into the first number of the show, and proud parents aside, the moment was touching to strangers as well. There were a few opening night “oops” moments, and I wished the entire cast could sing louder, but “Scrooge,” about 20 minutes in, got its groove back, and Brian Connolly’s performance in the title role is a triumph.

One stirring solo after another rescues the musical from brief lulls, including those from Neil Clevenger as Bob Cratchit; Dale Button as Jacob Marley; Brett Marryn Wulfson as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Cheyanna Simmons as Isabel (Scrooge’s spurned young love); and David Negaard as Tom Jenkins. Short of Connelly’s inspired portrayal, Negaard may be the MVP of the production with his vigorous voice that carries over large production numbers, including “Father Christmas” and “Thank You Very Much.”

A lesser-known tune, “Happiness,” is another “Scrooge” highlight, first sung by Simmons as Isabel and later reprised by Connolly, Roxanna Nelson and Sean T. Segundo. Gina Shure as Mrs. Cratchit offers a professional dramatic performance, and Hope Blackwell as Tiny Tim will make you remember why we choose to watch “Christmas Carol” adaptations year after year.

Act two is where Director Ricky Jones’ choices shine. The Ghost of Christmas Present is played by four actors (Carver Glomb, Jai Litman, Jason Strahn and Charlie Dungans). The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is a series of special effects and shadows, which are both frightening and surprising. Jones’ choice to feature masked, eerie minions with the three Christmas entities was also extremely effective.

By late act two, Connolly has delivered the type of performance that separates acting as a profession from a hobby, especially with “I’ll Begin Again” and the finale/medley. Maui OnStage’s “Scrooge” may need a couple of performances to right itself, naturally, but the pieces are in place for it to become a wonderful escape into what Christmas should be about.

* Maui OnStage’s production of “Scrooge – the Musical” continues at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 15 at the Historic Iao Theater. Ask about the special family discount night at 6 Sunday. Buy any four seats and receive $10 off the total. Reserved seating ranges from $17 to $28. The cast will be offering free performances of musical excerpts and Christmas carols at the Shops at Wailea 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 20 and Dec. 22.