New Yorkers are having a Dickens of a time this holiday season.
Especially patrons who enjoy theater and specifically The Classical Theatre of Harlem — the untraditional presenters of classic literary works -- they are being gifted with a fun family experience, if only for a limited seasonal holiday run.
Traditional to the offerings of presenting relevant contemporary theatrical productions, on this go-round there is a plethora of levity and mirth to “A Christmas Carol” as the age-old tale about a thrifty British, businessman and his loyal employer is reconditioned to spotlight a Harlem landlord who exploits his community.
“A bad episode of Good times” does not compare to this reimaged presentation staged at Aaron Davis Hall on the City College Campus in Harlem.
Shawn Rene Graham configured Charles Dicken’s classic to deliver a “fierce and fabulous” relatable version that the worst student of literature can comprehend and applaud.
Acclaimed for adapting timeless classics to the suitability of generations inclusive of millenials and baby boomers, CTH with Ty Jones, producing artistic director and his creative team has scored a holiday hit to run thru the season.
Graham is director with Steve H. Broadnax III and choreography by Tiffany Rea-Fisher enhances movement and artistry that should be applied to every presentation.
“Re-imagining of the classic Christmas tale includes some original music and classic holiday carols tinged with gospel, hip-hop, pop and r&b influences, to celebrate the spirit of the season the Harlem way.”
Set in present day Harlem, Ebenezer Scrooge is depicted as a “real estate mogul who has made his fortune at the expense of others. Scrooge foregoes using his wealth to affect positive change within his Harlem community and instead lives a life of miserly solitude. That is, until three unexpected visitors arrive on Christmas Eve to show him that the value of family and the impact of cooperation will lead to a healthy, thriving and prosperous community.”
Through 80 minutes of entertaining revisions, the trio is able to effectively convince Scrooge that he is able to Make Harlem Great Again by reflecting on his life practices and perhaps reposition for real-time positive possibilities.
Infusing uptown flair, pop music, dance and fashion-forward outfits the uptown hamlet is projected with familiarity to an obvious conscious and sensitive script.
Imagine a spirit arriving on roller skates.
Try to picture another blinged-out in sequins and glitter telling it like it is about the “queendom.”
Score one for the women’s liberation movement.
Two snaps up for Kahlil X Daniel who delivers image, style and interpretation of the phrase MTA. While New Yorkers accept the acronym to describe the mass transit system corporately known as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come relates that the true meaning — based on ridership — is actually the Minority Transportation Association.
Nix the Dickensian three scary fellas who descend into nightmarish episodes to frighten youngsters and their unsuspecting parents, the Harlem remake introduces lively individuals who dance to The Jackson Five and “boogie oogie oogie” to pop songs.
In addition the poorly “David Copperfield” “Oliver Twist” suffering child of centuries ago is vividly reformed from a pathetic, crippled Tiny Tim to Tiny Timothia, an independent girl that although inflicted with a debilitating handicap seems to cheer her needy parents with optimism.
Score one more for the gender reformation.
The production “touches on the issues that are affecting many New Yorkers today — gentrification and social inequality, but infuses it with humor and hope.”
As a matter of fact, throughout the presentation it becomes evident that “buying a house in Harlem” back in the day “was as expensive then as it is now” with a gentrified community.
Writers infuse many pertinent themes to punctuate a message of gender equality.
Diversification also includes a bold Caribbean character named Claudette (Paula Galloway) who does not bite her tongue about any topic.
Injecting a shout-out in tribute to the National Black Theater and its founder, the late actress and trailblazing Barbara Ann Teer, Harlem seems to be in the house with an emphasized nudge at women running for political office in 2020.
CTH must be commended for using their artistry to reinvigorate this timeless tale and for reminding patrons that taking “the time to be sensitive and mindful is key to celebrating our shared humanity.”
A savvy cast is led by Anthony Vaughn Merchant who portrays the mean and stingy Ebenezer Scrooge. Other talented thespians includes: Jason C. Brown as The Spirit of Christmas Present; Reed Harris Butts as Bennie; Daniel Echevarria as Fezz; Brandon Gregory as The Spirit of Christmas Past; Steve Hauck as Jacob Marley, Emery Jones as Tiny Timothia, Kaden Jones as Child Scrooge; Alexandria Danielle King as Sierra Jones; Kahlil X Daniel as The Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come, Sarita Amani Nashas Fan and Belle, Angela Polite as Clock Shop Lady; Jeffrey Rashad as Bob Krachet and Young Scrooge and Kenzie Ross as Mrs. Krachet;.
The ensemble features dancers from Elisa Monte Dance.
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