'The Devil's Christmas Carol': A Musical From Hell
When you're spending all day going to performances in an unjuried theater festival, you can bet that not everything is going to be a winner. Fringe is, after all, really a celebration of the theater craft -- from the writing to the rehearsing to the final performance -- and so the actors might be getting as much out of Fringe as the audience. In the case of "The Devil's Christmas Carol," though, the actors probably got more out of the production than the audience.
OutOftheBlackBox Theater Company's world premiere response to Charles Dickens' holiday classic was full of good intentions. The Greenbelt theater group's succinct summary even sounded amusingly intriguing: The devil forces his captives to perform "A Christmas Carol" for eternity and dangles a carrot of freedom to get them to give their 647th performance the old college try.
But the premise turned out to be more muddled. The performance got started with a "Lost"-style flashback about a man abandoning his wife after she gives birth to a crippled baby, which explains why Tiny Tim ended up in Hell in the first place. Beyond that, the story was a mishmash of characters searching for stage props, reunited family members, homages to the source material, an ornery director who may have a Napoleon complex and -- out of nowhere -- a love story.
Unfortunately, the script wasn't the only thing that needed more work. The whole performance seemed more rehearsal than finished product. There were missed cues, premature stage entrances and forgotten lyrics. Meanwhile the background music (which sounded like a discordant call-and-response between a bassoon and a glockenspiel), was so loud it was often impossible to hear the actors on stage.
There were redeeming qualities. A huge one was Kayla Dixon, who played Tiny Tim's daughter Gabriela. Her voice was in a class of its own and her stage presence and poise were well beyond her middle school years. Even so, one 8th grader can't be expected to prop up an entire musical.
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