Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 14, 2018

PREVIEW: Goodspeed Musicals, A Connecticut Christmas Carol

Goodspeed Musicals, Terris Theater, Chester CT,
through December 30, 2018
by R.E. Smith

Say the name “Goodspeed” to anyone in New England (or perhaps the country) with even the slightest knowledge of musical theatre and they will probably describe the majestic site of a well-restored late 1800’s Opera House sitting on the banks of the Connecticut River in East Haddam CT.

However, that structure, and its dedication to the American musical, is really only half the story. Sitting a mere 5 miles south, in Chester, CT, is Goodspeed Musicals’ Norma Terris Theater, dedicated to the discovery, creation and refinement of new American musicals. The shows staged here might not be quite ready for the lights of Broadway, but this place can get them closer than anywhere else. Chester center during the holiday season, with its festively lit shops and restaurants, is as quaint looking as any small town you would see in a Hallmark Channel movie, so it is only appropriate that the current production at the Terris is a new show called “A Connecticut Christmas Carol”.

Photo by Diane Sobolewski
After debuting last year, this “Nutmeg state”-centric retelling of the Dicken’s classic returns and it continues to evolve and shape itself into a top-notch, family-friendly seasonal production. Speaking of winter. . .the show has not been “frozen”, meaning that it could/can/will undergo changes like many shows at the Terris do. At a talkback after the show there were a number of people who had seen both this year’s production and last’s, giving the author an opportunity to gauge what was thought of various changes. Some of those changes included the addition of a new song, an intermission and the switching out of an entire character.

While core figures like Scrooge and the Cratchits remain the same, various other characters, locations, and even the “spirits” are now decidedly Connecticut-themed. There are references and representations of notable regional figures such as Igor Sikorsky and JP Morgan, as well as famous Hartford landmarks and businesses. Like a kid’s cartoon with adult humor, the show can be enjoyed on multiple levels. Having knowledge of Connecticut history will enhance your enjoyment of the show, but it is not absolutely necessary to appreciate this timeless tale of redemption. L.J. Fecho’s book is rife with actual quotes from the famous denizens of the Constitution State, skillfully woven into the script.

Goodspeed’s long-standing musical director, Michael O’Flaherty has crafted some memorable new songs such as “How Can You Resist the Irresistible” and “Everyone But You” that practically beg for a bigger stage and a larger chorus. Robert Cuccioli as Scrooge/William Gillette, a Tony-nominated actor, leads the cast, so rest assured that this smaller second stage is in no way “second best”. The entire cast, many returning from last year, is talented and engaging, from Michael Thomas Holmes’ multiple “ghosts” to Robbie Berson’s Tiny Tim. Though familiar, the various scenes of past, present and future move along briskly and feature some inventive stagecraft.

No matter the season, a trip to a Terris Theatre production is an experience no musical theater buff should miss, and seeing “A Connecticut Christmas Carol” during the holidays is the gift any musical theater fan will appreciate.