Take a bow
Palace Theatre ready for big finish in 'A Christmas Carol'By JULIA ANN WEEKES
NH Weekend Editor December 20. 2017 1:08PM
If you go...WHAT: 'A Christmas Carol'
WHEN: Thursday and Friday at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St., Manchester
TICKETS: $44-$51 for adults and $30 for ages 6 to 12
INFO: palacetheatre.org; 668-5588
The Palace Theatre’s three-week run of “A Christmas Story,” featuring TV, stage and film actor Charles Shaughnessy (“The Nanny,” “Days of Our Lives”) wraps up with four Queen City performances today through Sunday.
It’s pretty hard not to get drawn into the Queen City venue’s musical version of the tale first made famous by writer Charles Dickens in 1843.
First, there’s the sense that the historic Hanover Street theater is more than an ornate backdrop to the time-honored story; it’s a part of the show. The gilt-colored detail around the top and sides of the Palace’s stage is a perfect complement to this Dickensian story.
Those architectural details go back to the theater’s beginnings, when it opened in 1915. It frames the elaborately painted sets like the golf-leaf around hand-painted Victorian vignettes in a treasured book, right down to the freshly fallen snow piled up against glowing lanterns in the foreground.
And because the action spills over the stage and into the aisles of the theater, audiences are pulled into the story as witnesses of sorts to the narrator’s unfolding account.
Go ahead and try to avoid the warm fuzzies as a eternally optimistic Tiny Tim makes eye contact with theater-goers as he parades down the center aisle, perched atop his dad’s shoulder.
A nice touch is the use of the alcoves to the right and left of the stage. They’re postcard-worthy illustratons comes to life, with twinkling Chrismas trees and children singing beneath decorated arches.
“A Christmas Carol,” which opened Dec. 1 and finishes with shows at 7:30 p.m. today and Friday, and at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, finds Shaughnessy infusing the curmudgeon-turned-nice-guy Ebenezer Scrooge with an affable enthusiasm.
A fun moment is when Scrooge, dressed in a night shirt and slippers and shielding a candle’s flame from drafts in his bed chamber, is visited by his deceased former boss, Jacob Marley. Shaughnessy draws laughs when he wonders aloud if the manifestation is real or if it can be cracked up to a case of indigestions, perhaps from a bit of undigested beef.
“Charles, of course, is a highlight,” said Tracy Boucher, marketing coordinator for the Palace. “(And) 120-plus kids (performing in the production) is a highlight.”
AJ Ackelson, who last performed in Palace productions of “Saturday Night Fever,” “Billy Elliot” and “Singin’ in the Rain,” portrays Ebenezer Scrooge as a young boy, and his plaintive voice in one scene is a touching reminder that Scrooge didn’t get to be so cranky without some disappointments and challenges of his own.
Striking costuming by Jessica Moryl adds its own spectacle to the production. Gowns shimmer in red, peach, gold, violet and sage, while Scrooge (whether in his mean phase or kinder incarnation) cuts a striking figure in a silver vest and pants, crisp white shirt and dapper spats. Even the drab-colored scruffy clothes of a couple of thieves stands out with its carefully crafted snippets of rags and patches.
Moryl, who lives in Manchester and also is part of the cast of “A Christmas Carol”, said it took about two months to buy and fashion more than 100 costumes.
“Jess dresses practically every show,” Boucher said. “It’s her 11th season as a performer, costume designer and assistant to the director. A few of her favorite Palace credits include ‘Rock of Ages,’ ‘Oliver,’ ‘Anything Goes” and “Cabaret.”
Another Palace favorite is Megan Sara Quinn, who is delightfully funny as the confident and a bit sassy Mrs. Fezziwig.
“(She) is in her sixth-year as company manager and youth theater administrator,” Boucher said of the scene-stealing Queen city actress. “She’s loved by all — parents and kids alike. Notable palace credits include ‘Sister Act,’ Singin’ in the Rain,’ ‘Les Miserables’ and ‘Hairspray.’”
Mark Nicols is the narrator, bringing home the poignant theme of redemption and hope, with a trademark twist at the end.