Younger minds may find entertainment and diversion at 3 Ghosts, this stage musical adaptation of Charles Dickens‘ story, A Christmas Carol by Pipe Dream Theatre Productions. Everything about it resonates with an enthusiastic note of, well, glee. The attractive and animated cast strut and stand about stage looking very pleased with themselves, and the energy level is up; positive; high. They know enough to drop the smiles when the mood switches to somber – as the tale of a haunted, miserly materialist may necessitate – but you know it won’t be long before the scene is lit once more with those megawatt smiles, so de rigueur for the current generation of spotlight-hungry performers. And with an ensemble cast of forty plus, that’s a lot of light, a lot of energy. There are almost twenty musical performances, several involving choreographed dancers, and all on the modest sized stage at the Beckett Theatre. Just imagine the stage direction logistics alone!
More is more is the discernible aesthetic working here. Every actor and dancer’s costume is lovingly stitched, patched, distressed, flounced, bustled and ruffled well beyond any parameters that realism might allow. Styling itself “steampunk“, the production is utterly devoted to the notion of a theatrical world divorced from any day-to-day, humdrum existence. This is the world of musical theatre, after all, and everything is big, bold, brazen, and better. And therein, alas, lies the rub. In love with its own artificiality, it persistently overplays everything. In fairness, the theme of Time is given a thorough going-over, convincingly evoked dramatically and musically, but there’s something intrinsically callow about the perspective. Devoid of a hint of maturity, the entire production – music, direction, choreography, costumes, singing, dancing, and acting – is dramatically unsophisticated. 3 Ghosts looks very believably like what might occur if a group – maybe forty or so - of young people said, “hey kids, let’s put on a show!”
Ouch! I can hear the wrathful screams of young gleesters everywhere howling, “well, what’s wrong with that?” In truth, nothing; nothing’s wrong with that. But if older eyes are watching, older ears are listening, older minds attending, then they might observe: Given the enormous amount of work in developing a coherent musical narrative, why did the creators, Collin Simon and Liz Muller, set out to produce something that comes as close to resembling other recent Broadway style productions as they might dare? Is there such a thing as Broadway muzak? Was this set designed and constructed in one afternoon? Does this choreography read as generic? Has the makeup artist ever heard of soot? Can the director tell the difference between sweet and saccharine? Does the term “creative risk” play a part in the producers’ vocabulary? And, given the monumental efforts at play by all parties involved, why, why, why aim so low in the first place? Youthful enthusiasm can overcome many obstacles but not, finally, creative timidity and conceptual immaturity.
~~~3 Ghosts an original steampunk musical re-telling of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol Music by Collin Simon Lyrics by Liz Muller Book by Collin Simon and Liz Muller Directed by Liz Muller . The Beckett Theatre @ Theatre Row 410 West 42nd Street (between 9th and 10th Avenues) . December 8-23, 2011 Wednesday through Sunday at 8pm Additional performances Saturdays at 2pm, Sundays at 3pm, and Tuesday, December 20 at 7pm . Tickets are $25 Click here to purchase or call (212) 239-6200 . 90 minutes with no intermission