KPFA theatre critic Richard Wolinsky reviews the 42nd Street Moon production of “Scrooge in Love” starring Jason Graae, at the Gateway in San Francisco through December 22, 2019.
Text of review (differs slightly from audio version).
Often remembered and revived, the big hit musicals of the fifties and sixties will never leave us. But there were other shows, minor hits and flops on Broadway, and television musicals that never went that far. These shows had weak books, and usually undistinguished scores with one exceptional song that survives. Cole Porter’s Aladdin, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Me and Juliet, The Adventures of Marco Polo. The shows served as a backdrop to the bigger ones, the ones we sing today.
So when you’re going to the Gateway Theatre to see “Scrooge in Love,” a sequel to A Christmas Carol, starring Jason Graae with music by Broadway veteran Larry Grossman and lyrics by Kellen Blair, it’s easy to imagine this show, first written and produced in 2015, being a revival of one of those shows from long ago, an imaginary black and white telecast on Kraft TV Theatre.
Jason Graae, Scrooge in the production (actuality)
It’s hard to hang anything heavy on a clothesline made of tinsel. When we last left Dickens’ Scrooge, his plate was full, with Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, with making up for years of greed. So does he need a mate? Not really. But if you accept the premise, then Scrooge does what it needs to do, in a 1958 kind of way.
It’s all kind of creaky, but not in a bad way.
Jason Graae, coming off a year and a half as the Wizard in the national tour of Wicked, dominates the stage, not only with his talent, but with his energy. And there is that one song, a lament sung by Scrooge in Act Two when his old love rejects him, A Kitchen Built for Twenty, which Graae knocks out of the park.
Broadway vet Larry Grossman thrives on the old style. No melisma, no rock or rap, nothing contemporary, a slight taste of jazz. In an era of throwing shade, Presidential tweeting, Facebook trolling, televised f-bombs and internet porn, sometimes you just need a little comfort food.
Scrooge in Love, starring Jason Graae, directed by Dyan McBride, plays at the Gateway in San Francsico through December 22nd. For more information go to 42nd Street Moon dot org. That’s 42ndStMoon.org. I’m Richard Wolinsky on Bay Area theatre for KPFA.