Children will love the hour-long Christmas show currently on stage at the Santa Monica Playhouse’s second stage. Based on the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” Diane Namm’s “Mrs. Scrooge” is community theatre at its best, a show full of broad comedy and silly bits of slapstick that will have the little ones rolling in the aisles. An interactive, audience participatory snowball fight is just one slice of this seasonal show’s frivolous fun.
Mrs. Scrooge (Heather Stewart) is a spoiled, Los Angeles housewife. She alienates her husband (D. Kevin Kelly), her assistant, Ms. Cratchet (Samantha Whittaker), and pretty much everyone else with whom she comes in contact. Too busy filing her nails, shopping, and complaining about life’s little inconveniences to care about building meaningful relationships, this grumpy girl finds herself alone and snoozing on the couch on Christmas Eve. But there’s an angel (David Burrus Jr.) looking down on Mrs. Scrooge, and he’s about to visit her, bringing along three guests familiar to anyone even remotely acquainted with the Dickens tale. But these ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future aren’t exactly like the ones in the original material. For comic effect, the ghost of Jacob Marley dresses more like the ghost of Bob Marley, and the ghost of Christmas Present (Anthony Kalatzis) is a goofy teenager who wants to dance and play. More serious moments occur when Mrs. Scrooge is visited by her deceased father (Elias McCabe) and when she gets a glimpse into the unfortunate circumstances of Ms. Cratchet’s life.
Though the basic story is familiar, it borrows a bit from another Christmas favorite, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The goal of the angel in Mrs. Scrooge is to get his wings, much like the goal of the beloved Clarence in the Frank Capra Christmas chestnut. And he has to report to a tough-as-nails head angel (Jaimyon Parker), who won’t let him earn flying rights until he turns a rotten person into a caring one. The blending of stories works here, mostly because it’s all about making kids laugh while teaching them a lesson or two about kindness, perseverance, and the rewards of good behavior. In fact, Namm’s theatre company, West of Broadway, was founded with the mission of promoting literacy and social responsibility through interactive theatre for children of all ages. With this show, that mission is definitely accomplished.
On top of the doling out of important lessons for children, the show is also entertaining. Stewart seems to revel in her character’s complete inability to care about anyone but herself. Her comic timing and kid-friendly approach to the material are a service to the show. She isn’t afraid to ask the audience questions and make spontaneous replies to unexpected audience quips.
My favorite part of “Mrs. Scrooge” was watching the sea of happy faces on the dozen or so children in the audience the night I attended. It’s a nice holiday gift to see young people having fun at the theatre.
For tickets, visit www.westofbroadway.org.