Theatre Three's Jeffrey Sanzel, who has been playing Scrooge as well as adapting and directing Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" for nearly 25 years, this season decided to make the miser meaner.
So when Scrooge observes on Christmas Eve that he's "a year older and not an hour richer," his words are not meant as hyperbole. He truly resents an hour's passing without so much as a ka-ching.
In this darker vision, it's crucial that Scrooge never flinches from his resolute inhumanity. He remains unsalvageable almost up to the moment when, guided by three spirits, he sees the light. In that way, the familiar tale reflects a kind of miracle ascribed by believers to Christmas itself.
This marvelous device, embraced in Randall Parsons' indoor-outdoor Victorian set and Ellen Michelmore's sound-and-music effects, enhances Dickens' powerful text. A supporting cast led by Douglas Quattrock (Bob Cratchit), Maryellen Molfetta (Ghost of Christmas Past), Debbie Starker (Ghost of Christmas Present), Kevin Story (Jacob Marley) and Evan Teach (Scrooge's nephew) populates a "Carol" worthy of its source.
Less bah, more haThe Scrooge we encounter in "A Christmas Carol, the Musical" is more curmudgeonly than mean-spirited. In the company of the affable Ghost of Christmas Present (Wayne Pretlow), he's quite capable of making merry, letting down his hair (wig by Trent Pcenicni) and kicking up his heels with the "Abundance and Charity" dancing babes.
Not that Steve Brady doesn't muster a convincingly dismissive "humbug." But as directed by Bob Durkin for Gateway Playhouse, Brady's Scrooge is a pushover for Tiny Tim (adorable Nolan Lyons). Even the ominous warning by Jacob Marley (frightful Michael Edward Baker) in the high-flying "Link by Link" number is no more harrowing than Halloween. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Scott McLean Harrison) sounds more nostalgic than judgmental in "The Lights of Long Ago."
One of the few heavy notes is Bethany Elkin's Ghost of Christmas Yet to Be ballet - though her costume (by Trevor Bowen) seems oddly cartoonish.
Despite technical snafus during the opening weekend, this "Carol" carries a catchy holiday tune worth the price of admission, thanks in no small part to musical director Justin Fischer's vibrant orchestra.
WHAT "A Christmas Carol," adapted by Jeffrey Sanzel, based on Charles Dickens' story
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday, 3 p.m. Friday, 3 and 7 p.m. Sunday at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson
INFO $14-$21; theatre three.com, 631-928-9100
WHEN | WHERE 7 p.m. today, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow, 2 and 8 p.m. Thursday, Gateway Playhouse at Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue
INFO $51-$53; gatewayplay house.com, 631-286-1133