Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol
by Joe Regan Jr.
The Actors Fund in association with Dreamworks Animation and Margaret Styne presented for the first time on stage (December 15) the great first animated special 1962’s “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” with a 27 piece orchestra, a cast of stage luminaries, and at least 22 singers and dancers terrifically directed by Carl Andress and choreographed by Marcos Santana. It was presented at the beautifully renovated Gerald Lynch Theater. There one set piece, a rectangle stand, doubled for Scrooge’s bed and the Cratchits’ and Scrooge’s nephew’s family dinner tables. There was video animation from the classic cartoon which set the time and place of the scenes. The first exciting thing was the overture, expanded by music director John McDaniel into a brassy with strings Styne overture! The packed house applauded the musicians.
Towering above everyone was Douglas Sills as Magoo/Scrooge, appearing with glasses and colorful outfit and bursting into “It’s Great To Be Back on Broadway,” with additional lyrics by talented Sam Willmott. The harried Director was played by John Bolton and the nervous stage manager was played to a frenzied Thom Christopher Warren. This was a multi-racial cast and Bob Cratchit was sung strongly and played with great empathy by Joshua Henry. Scrooge’s nephew Fred was played with conviction by Matthew Scott. When Scrooge chased away the charity seeking citizens and the caroling children’s choir, he gleefully sang “Ringle Ringle,” counting his golden coins.
When the Ghost of Marley appeared, the audience recognized Robert Cuccioli even in his ghostly outfit. The Ghost of Christmas Past was Don Darryl Rivera and he led Scrooge back to his first romance, with the beautiful Belle. He wooed her at a ball and gave her a ring but she realized that he loved money more than her so she gave him back the ring. The beautiful Betsy Wolfe stopped the show singing “Winter Was Warm,” one of the great songs from the score.
The audience went crazy when they recognized Broadway star Tony Sheldon as the Ghost of Christmas Present. He guided Scrooge/Magoo to the tables of Fred and the Cratchit families on Christmas Eve with Bob Cratchit leading his impoverished family in “The Lord’s Bright Blessing.” Tiny Tim, played by a very talented Zachary Unger, sang out his “God Bless Us All, Every One.”
When the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come, Frederic Odgaard, entered the audience was delighted to see him with an Old Man played by Christopher Sieber! Showing the joy that all the debtors had at Scrooge’s death, the money grubbing “Despicables” were played in amazing costumes and disguises by Klea Blackhurst as the Charwoman, Jennifer Cody as the Laundress, and singer/songwriter Jeff Blumenkrantz as the Undertaker – another show-stopper.
Of course, it all ended with Magoo/Scrooge becoming human, delivering food and a Christmas tree to the Crachit family and determined to find a healing for Tiny Tim. The entire cast on stage received an immediate standing ovation, with cheers for Sills and McDaniel especially.
It was a shrewd, expensive venture but now “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” with this book (adapted by Tom Pinckney from Barbara Steel’s teleplay) and these orchestrations should have a long future suitable to schools, community theatres, regional theaters, and even a Holiday return to Broadway. Everyone, all those stars and producers who attended, felt that way at the reception afterwards.