Month: December 2016

Book Review – The Winds of War by Herman Wouk

Herman Wouk woke me up to the concept of the epic American novel. The Winds of War traced a naval family’s experiences from the summer of 1939 through the Pearl Harbor attack. A magisterial work of historical fiction resulted.

In the process, Mr. Wouk created the most unique literary character I’ve ever encountered in Captain Victor Henry. In a way, he reminded me of Forrest Gump. The captain always seemed to find himself in the middle of many major historical events; at least the ones leading up to the Second World War. While he longed to command a battleship, the brewing “winds of war” swept him up into a fascinating series of positions. At the book’s beginning he received the post of US Naval Attaché in Berlin. Later he travelled to the UK where he “observed” a bombing raid on Berlin. Following that he received reassignment to Moscow during the German invasion. While serving in these varied locales, he met the war’s most influential figures including Hitler, Churchill and Stalin. Interestingly, of all the people he encountered, he only experienced nervousness prior to meeting Churchill.

Of course, Captain Henry’s interactions with FDR served as the sine qua non of the book. In fact, he first met this iconic historical figure during one of his first naval assignments. Here are the captain’s recollections of that encounter prior to meeting Roosevelt the President.

He was wondering whether the President would remember him, and hoped he wouldn’t. In 1918, as a very cocky Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin Roosevelt had crossed to Europe on a destroyer. The wardroom officers, including Ensign Henry, had snickered at the enormously tall, very handsome young man with the famous family name, who made a great show of using nautical terms and bounding up ladders like a seadog, while dressed in outlandish costumes that he kept changing. He was a charmer, the officers agreed, but a lightweight, almost a phony, spoiled by a rich man’s easy life. He wore pince-nez glasses in imitation of his great relative, President Teddy Roosevelt, and he also imitated his booming manly manner; but a prissy Harvard accent made this heartiness somewhat ridiculous. (Page 148)

The descriptions in this passage showed that the author performed significant research while writing this book. This attention to detail continued in the scenes describing the German invasion of Poland, the discussions over America’s support of the British prior to Pearl Harbor and the Nazi occupation of Russia.

In an acknowledgement to the time period, Mr. Wouk referenced the plight of Europe’s Jews. In the most disturbing quote in the book, a Jewish historian presented his thoughts on why Christians persecuted Jews.

“He’s a Jew’s Jesus,” said Jastrow. “That was my point.”

“Then tell me one thing,” said Rabinovitz. “These Europeans worship a poor murdered Jew, the young Talmud scholar you wrote about so well—to them he’s the Lord God—and yet they go right on murdering Jews. How does a historian explain that?”

In a comfortable, ironic, classroom tone, most incongruous in the circumstances, Jastrow replied, “Well, you must remember they’re still mostly Norse and Latin pagans at heart. They’ve always chafed under their Jewish Lord’s Talmudic morals, and possibly take out their irritation on his coreligionists.” (Page 818 – 819)

            The author related most of the story through the exploits of various Americans. He still cleverly fit the German perspective into the novel. Mr. Wouk created a fictitious book titled World Empire Lost written by a German general of his creation, Armin von Roon. He wove it into the narrative through Captain Henry’s postwar translation. He entered the German frame of mind through comments such as, “the one war crime is to lose” (Page 859) and “Churchill was a Hitler restrained by democracy.” (Page 247) He contrasted this with lines such as the following that Captain Henry delivered to FDR, “Mr. President, the quality of mercy is mightiest in the mightiest.” (Page 149)

The Winds of War ended following the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Mr. Wouk resumed the Henry family saga in the sequel, War and Remembrance. With that acknowledgement, while I enjoyed the reading, I didn’t find the book strong enough to stand on its own. I’d classify it as more of an adventure story since I didn’t get a sense of the characters changing during the course of the story. I detected shades of submariner Byron Henry maturing at the end of the book, however, but not to the point it would justify concluding it.

I applaud the author for crafting a novel this complex and making it reasonably realistic. All of the major characters possessed involved story lines. These multifarious elements help explain why The Winds of War came in at close to 900 pages. While lengthy, I enjoyed the book so much it inspired me to read War and Remembrance. That tome contains close to 1500 pages. If that one’s as good as the first volume, I hope I still remember The Winds of War when I finish.  

 

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Yes to be Inducted into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

“Does it really happen?” YES it does. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame decided to “awaken” finally. The pre-eminent progressive rock group of the 1970s will be enshrined in its walls “soon.”

Whenever I’ve said Yes deserve an induction, people told me, “’Leave it’ go.” I replied, “’Hold on.’ ‘It can happen.’” Now “we have heaven.” “I would’ve waited forever.” I’m just glad it occurred before the “turn of the century.”

I’d go through “remembering” Progressive Rock royalty such as Genesis, Pink Floyd and Rush getting enshrined in the hall. “I get up, I get down” about it since Yes couldn’t claim the same honor. That oversight brought me “close to the edge.”

Now that they’re in, I’m at the “gates of delirium”! This news helped to “lift me up.” It sure put me in a great “mood for a day.”

I have “real love” for Yes’ music. There are no “parallels” to its complexity.  I feel like an “astral traveler”, a “starship trooper” if you will, on a “sound chaser” mission whenever I listen to it. The lyrics tell such “wondrous stories,” too.

This band’s “survival” astonishes me. It certainly took a “roundabout” way to stay on the music scene. Their line-up’s “perpetual change” has been a source of jokes for decades. But when judged by the end result, guys: “yours is no disgrace.”

If I may borrow a title from a Yes song: “Without Hope You Cannot Start the Day.” I’ve wanted the “ancient ritual” of thinking “I am waiting” “to be over.” “Then” “I’ve seen all good people” at the Hall. I thank them for making “your move.” All the “disillusionment” is behind me. The fans can now “rejoice”! I’ll be having “sweet dreams” of a lot of hands coming together in “the clap” until the band is formally enshrined. Now it’s “onward” to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for Yes.

Drama Review – Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss

Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade presented the most original take on the “play-within-a-play” concept that I’ve ever read. The fictitious historical drama described the events leading up to the bloodthirsty firebrand of the French Revolution’s assassination. One of literature’s more infamous writers penned the work. An asylum served as the setting. Should I even continue with this review? I’d be surprised if a number of readers haven’t logged off to find a copy of the book by now.

Mr. Weiss selected a rather verbose title. Most refer to The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade by the abbreviated Marat/Sade. While lengthy I give the playwright credit: the drama corresponded with what I expected from the label.

That’s where the ‘easy’ reading ended, however. As someone familiar with both the French Revolution and de Sade’s writing, I anticipated a philosophical take on the historical events surrounding this pivotal event in human history. Once again, the playwright didn’t disappoint. He presented a deep intellectual exploration of conditions during the Revolution in 1793 when the Marat story occurred. He then contrasted them to French life on the fifteenth anniversary of Marat’s murder when de Sade directed the play. Mr. Weiss cleverly inserted his own leftist views into the 1965 text, too. The Herald character noted:

The Revolution came and went

And unrest was replaced by discontent. (Page 26)

Four of the asylum’s patients followed this up with their thoughts.

Patient: We’ve got rights the right to starve

Patient: We’ve got jobs waiting for work

Patient: We’re all brothers lousy and dirty

Patient: We’re all free and equal to die like dogs (Page 26)

While I disagree with Mr. Weiss’ political leanings I respect his excellent use of subtext.

I didn’t read the play in the original German. Geoffrey Skelton’s English translation contained some outstanding usage of language.

I found Marat’s assassin’s–Charlotte Corday’s—view of her target expressed exceptionally well. In the following dialog she alluded to Marat’s medicinal baths where he wrote his invectives calling for more and more violence.

Corday (sleepily and hesitantly): Poor Marat in your bathtub

Your body soaked, saturated with poison

 (waking up)

Poison spurting from your hiding place

Poisoning the people

Arousing them to looting and murder. (Page 30)

I liked the interesting way of describing his venomous words.

Marat described his country’s upheaval in unflattering terms.

We stand here more oppressed than when we began

(Points across the auditorium)

And they think the Revolution’s been won. (Page 56)

Mr. Weiss’ used the character of the Marquis de Sade in amusing ways. Not only did he write and direct the play-within-the-play he also took part in it. Several times he interjected his own views on the subject; in some cases directly speaking to the Marat character. Sade opined the following on the killing of aristocrats.

Look at them Marat

These men who once owned everything

See how they turn their defeat into victory

Now that their pleasures have been taken away

The guillotine saves them from endless boredom

Gaily they offer their heads as if for coronation

Is that not the pinnacle of perversion (Page 41)

I enjoyed the touch of irony with the character’s use of that final word.

De Sade also explained his thoughts on public opinion to his protagonist.

Marat

Today they need you because you are going to suffer for them

They need you and they honor the urn which holds your ashes

Tomorrow they will come back and they will smash that urn

And they will ask

Marat who was Marat (Page 71)

While not expressed in the text, I wonder if those words hurt Marat more than Ms. Corday’s dagger.

I thought the playwright used exposition too liberally in the play. It opened with the asylum’s director (Coulmier) delivering a prologue. The character explained the setting, the date and the set-up as well as other aspects of the Marat/Sade show. Later in the drama, various characters from Marat’s past described various aspects of his personality during his formative years. While already familiar with the story of Marat’s assassination, I would’ve preferred the playwright interspersed these incidents into the narrative itself. A parade of characters coming on stage to talk about the main character stopped the story too abruptly for me.

I’d also encourage readers unfamiliar with Marat to learn about him before reading. Those lacking knowledge about his publication L’Ami du people, his murder by Charlotte Corday and his medicinal baths won’t understand the story. Some background in the Marquis de Sade’s political philosophy and writings would help in that regard, as well. Reading Marat/Sade with this context would give the play more impact as it’s cerebral instead of action driven.

Marat/Sade succeeded on multiple levels. It presented a philosophical take on political and social conditions in Revolutionary France with parallels to the modern era. The playwright framed them through the perceptions of two of history’s most notorious figures. It impressed me that he achieved all this using the play-within-a-play technique. I enjoyed reading and would welcome the opportunity to watch it performed. I won’t do either of those things from a bathtub, though.

Drama Review – Equus by Peter Shaffer

Equus contained the most unusual trifecta in the history of theatre. In this Tony Award winning play, Peter Shaffer combined these disparate themes: the merits of psychiatry, sexual repression and equine deification. This is just the short list of themes the playwright addressed. The drama certainly earned the litany of awards it received for creativity alone.

A real life event inspired the play. A friend of Mr. Schaffer’s related a story of a young man who blinded several horses. Without learning the actual reason for this bizarre crime, the playwright took creative license and delivered his own take using a similar though fictitious incident. Equus resulted.

I found the play very complex and recondite. It’s not a light-hearted yarn about horses, that’s for sure. It’s an exploration of Alan Strang’s mind as discovered through his psychiatrist, Martin Dysart. The doctor attempted to uncover the troubled teen’s motivations for his heinous crime. While doing so, Dysart also ruminated on his own profession’s capability to ‘help’ people by ‘curing’ them. As he observed, “Passion, you see, can be destroyed by a doctor. It cannot be created.” (Page 109) I told you this play had depth to it.

While I have yet to watch Equus performed on stage, the set-up described by the playwright intrigued me. He wrote:

All the cast of Equus sits on stage the entire evening. They get up to perform their scenes, and return when they are done to their places around the set. They are witnesses, assistants—and especially a Chorus. (Page 3)

I also liked how he directed that actors play the roles of horses. The use of people as opposed to props no doubt enhances the drama. Based on the religious references in the play I suspect he had a symbolic reason for that as well.

As I indicated earlier, Equus would perplex general readers due to its unusual story and theatrical staging. Because of these traits I found the play more symbolic than an actual telling of a story.

The dramatis personae seemed more like symbols than characters. (For more of my thoughts on this technique read my reviews of both the theatrical production and novel version of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men.) Jill Mason served as the sole believable character in the drama. Mr. Shaffer crafted her as a flirtatious teenaged girl. Both Alan’s father’s hypocrisy and his mother’s religious fanaticism seemed contrived. Although he crafted the latter more measured than the former. I interpreted Alan as primarily source material for Dyson’s monologues. This made it very difficult for me to suspend my disbelief while reading the play.

I really despised the choice to open with the psychiatrist’s soliloquy. This struck me as cliché. I didn’t care for this type of beginning in John Pielmeier’s Agnes of God and I didn’t care for it in this story. (I should note that Equus premiered six years prior to the other show.) To be fair: the playwright presented a much wider take on Dyson’s views regarding Alan’s mental state throughout the drama. Of course, we writers know none of that matters if you lose the audience from the beginning.

I’ve heard of the horse whisperer, but the horse worshipper!? For this reason among others Equus wouldn’t appeal to all audiences. For those interested in an intricate psychological journey, it may be worth the read. All others would be better served cleaning a stable.

In Memoriam – Epitaph: Greg Lake

Confusion will be my epitaph

As I crawl this cracked and broken path

If we make it we will all sit back and laugh

But I fear tomorrow I’ll be crying.

From “Epitaph” by King Crimson. Lyrics by Peter Sinfield

 

Today Progressive Rock fans shed tears at the loss of a legend. One can only react with confusion that for the second time in 2016 a member of that paragon of progressive power trios Emerson, Lake and Palmer has left us. On December 7th, Greg Lake passed away less than a month after celebrating his sixty ninth birthday.

It is ironic to write that the music scene will not be the same following his passing. The music scene has not been the same since he entered it. We first heard Mr. Lake’s extraordinary talents on King Crimson’s eclectic masterpiece, In the Court of the Crimson King. The 1969 album sounds ahead-of-its-time even today. That’s a remarkable observation for a record originally released almost fifty years ago.

Mr. Lake’s vocals augmented Crimso’s innovative style; and the band’s repertoire provided him with myriad opportunities to display his capabilities. He added soft crooning to the ethereal “I Talk to the Wind” and haunting vocals to the lesser known “Moonchild.” His somber rendition of “Epitaph” brought the disillusionment in Peter Sinfield’s lyrics to life. That’s quite a challenging task with words this powerful.

The wall on which the prophets wrote

Is cracking at the seams.

Upon the instruments of death

The sunlight brightly gleams.

Mr. Lake’s vocals made King Crimson a Classic Rock icon. His bass playing made the band legendary. During “21st Century Schizoid Man” he, guitarist Robert Fripp and drummer Michael Giles performed the best instrumental jam ever recorded. He anticipated Heavy Metal bass lines through his thunderous bottom end on the live staple “Mars, the Bringer of War” from Holst’s The Planets. The origins of progressive rock came about through the melding of classical music with hard rock in tracks such as this one.

Mr. Lake achieved more musically during the two albums he recorded with King Crimson than most could in several lifetimes. Had he retired following his all-too brief stint with the band, he still would have assured his place in music history. To the delight of Progressive Rock fans, he harbored higher aspirations.

Mr. Lake joined up with keyboardist Keith Emerson and drummer Carl Palmer. The three established a veritable Prog Rock super group. In addition to entertaining audiences with his singing, bass playing and even his proficiency with the guitar, he used the opportunity to showcase his songwriting skills. Cuts such as “Lucky Man”, “Still You Turn Me On” and “From the Beginning” showed that even “serious” musicians could resonate with mainstream rock audiences.

Mr. Lake had the misfortune, to use that word loosely, of working with poet Peter Sinfield. In addition to writing for King Crimson, he also penned the words to ELP’s tour-de-force “Pirates.” Because of the man’s talents Mr. Lake’s skill as a lyricist often gets overlooked. But who doesn’t recognize the opening to “Lucky Man”?

He had white horses

And ladies by the score

All dressed in satin

And waiting by the door.

Oh, what a lucky man he was.

Mr. Lake achieved the pinnacle of his lyrical abilities in “The Sage”; a track he added to the band’s version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. The haunting opening stanza eloquently established the mood.

I carry the dust of a journey

That cannot be shaken away.

It lives deep within me

For I breathe it every day.

Like all progressive rock musicians, Mr. Lake always sought opportunities to expand the boundaries of his trade. During the late seventies, he experimented with an eight string electric bass guitar. He used it to full effect on Works Live. Since he couldn’t play both bass and guitar while on stage, the extra strings made the instrument sound like a bridge between the two. It gave early ELP classics like “Knife Edge” and “Tank” a fresh sound.

His musical peers showed immense respect for his skill with the instrument. It seemed fitting that the group which pioneered the “concept album” would invite Mr. Lake to join them. Following John Entwistle’s passing, The Who recruited him to play bass on their 2004 track “Real Good Looking Boy.”

Of course, Mr. Lake will best be remembered for his vocal talents. In addition to rock, he could sing jazzy tunes like “Show Me the Way to Go Home” and “Step Aside” with equal dexterity. He added an excellent Bob Dylan impersonation to ELP’s cover of “The Man in the Long Black Coat”, as well.

It’s sad that the person who wrote the Christmas staple “I Believe in Father Christmas” would pass away during the Holiday Season. I send my deepest condolences to Mr. Lake’s friends and family during this difficult time.

Just possibly, Mr. Lake wrote his own epitaph. For “The End” section of Pictures at an Exhibition he crafted the following lyrics.

There’s no end to my life   

No beginning to my death

Death is life.

Theatre Review – Leap of Faith at Haddonfield Plays and Players

DJ Hedgepath achieved the impossible. This skillful thespian followed-up his recent portrayal of Judas Iscariot by playing an even more despicable figure associated with Christianity. In the role of “Reverend” Jonas Nightingale, Mr. Hedgepath played a greedy, selfish, prurient huckster who prayed on others’ desperation for his own financial gain. As in his performance of Judas, he still managed to bring about empathy for his character. Through his skillful interpretation of the “Reverend” he transitioned Jonas into a respectable and even a likable figure by Leap of Faith’s conclusion. This alone made his return to the stage extraordinary.

It figured that Mr. Hedgepath would mark his reappearance with something this remarkable. As one of the most active members of the South Jersey Community Theatre circuit, I worried something had happened to him. It seemed odd when I attended two consecutive shows without seeing his name in the playbill. Fortunately, I received an early Christmas present watching him star—and hearing him sing–in this production after a four month hiatus. * (Please see note at bottom of article.)

The cast and crew of Haddonfield Plays and Players made it difficult for Mr. Hedgepath to stand out the way he did. Director Craig Hutchings, Musical Director Robert Stoop and Choreographer Jen Zellers coordinated an entertaining show with a phenomenal cast. I experienced the pleasure of Leap of Faith on December 3rd.

The show featured outstanding vocal numbers. The tracks in this musical sounded to my ears a hybrid of both soul and gospel. The director cast the perfect singers for such songs. Toni Richards (as Ida Mae) drew me into the story with her section of “Rise Up.” Kahil Wyatt (Isiah) crooned a fantastic “Walking like Daddy”; the most melodically challenging tune of the production.

Various songs required multiple cast members to perform together. These alone justified the cost of admission. My favorite ensemble piece “Are You on the Bus?” allowed Beatrice Alonna (Ornella), Jennifer Fisher (Sam), Toni Richards, Kahil Wyatt, and Mr. Hedgepath to showcase their skills together. The Angels of Mercy (Maggie Hartboard, Lorraine Iaquinta, Chris Jewell, Lindsey Krier and Faith McCleery) worked as an outstanding choir on “Step into the Light”, “Lost” and “If Your Faith is Strong Enough” among others. Their dance routines added to the fun.

A series of moving duets enhanced the evening. John Sayles (Jake) played a wheelchair bound child who begged Jonas to heal him. Mr. Hedgepath and Mr. Sayles displayed great chemistry together. The “Like Magic” track provided them with the perfect musical vehicle to express it. These performers took full advantage of the opportunity.

Amanda Frederick played Marla; a complex role for musical theatre. Ms. Frederick’s character required her to fill the multifarious parts of Jake’s mother, the local sheriff and Jonas’ love interest. While displaying the disparate traits of toughness and tenderness, she brought all this character’s qualities to life brilliantly.

Ms. Frederick and Mr. Hedgepath complimented each other well. The two expressed the characters’ evolving relationship through different musical styles. The upbeat “Fox in the Henhouse” described the prurient aspects of the reverend’s personality. “I Can Read You” provided a tender and intimate exploration of each character’s history. These performers managed to adjust their emotions to convey the feelings behind these songs. Due to their characters’ changing views of each another, this required skill and flexibility.

In Ms. Frederick’s playbill bio, she quoted Oscar Wilde. “The self-conscious aim of Life is to find expression,…Art offers it certain beautiful forms through which it may realize that energy.” This performer took that opportunity during her moving renditions of “Long Past Dreamin’” and “People Like Us.” She delivered a somber reading of the latter with such emotive force that I could feel Marla’s pain.

The ensemble also deserves credit for their contributions. Andrew Chaput, Bridget Hartshorne, Brittany Halzman, Mike Werner, and Tami Gordon Brody played the Sweetwater, Kansas crowd that became the reverend’s de facto personal cheering section. It’s a testament to their collective skills that they managed to show even more enthusiasm than the real audience.

The show contained one scene I found objectionable. It occurred when Sam (Jennifer Fisher) confronted Jonas regarding his tryst with the sheriff. She delivered a line intimating Marla could use her handcuffs for an erotic purpose. This bothered me. I understand that the original Leap of Faith musical premiered in 2010. That line is much more inappropriate today. I fear it could inspire those contemplating a musical version of Fifty Shades of Grey. What Christian wanted to do to Anastasia, a musical based on the book would do to theatre.

Leap of Faith began by Mr. Hedgepath pointing at me and shouting, “Sinner!” The fact I still liked the show after the self-described “King of Sin” character berated me as such shows how phenomenal this performance. For those who’d like to take the “leap of faith” and check it out: your “last chance salvation” is December 17th. “Are you on the bus?”

(* For all those so-called “artists” out there, please keep in mind: not actively practicing one’s craft for four months is an extremely long period of time for some people. It should be noted that during Mr. Hedgepath’s “down time” he directed another show.)

Theatre Review – A Christmas Carol at Burlington County Footlighters

Burlington County Footlighters bewildered me. I heard they’d planned to present the musical version of a Charles Dickens story for the Holiday Season. I couldn’t imagine a tale of putrid coke painting London’s skyline, children suffering under horrific child labor practices and business barons brutalizing the working classes coinciding with the festive mood in the air. Fortunately, they opted to stage a musical version of the author’s heart-warming Holiday classic A Christmas Carol; not his harsh critique of nineteenth century industrialization Hard Times. God blessed us everyone. The cast and crew’s wonderful presentation of the former proved Footlighters made the appropriate artistic call.

I attended the opening night showing directed by Scott Angehr and Tracey Hawthorne on December 2nd. While billed as a musical, I thought A Christmas Carol an entertaining spectacle on multiple levels. Of course, it featured a variety of extraordinary voices. The authentic costuming provided the audience with a means of visualizing the social strata of Victorian England. The set design achieved the latter while transforming the theatre into an idealistic image of a Christmas town. While this show possessed many attributes of a big budget New York play, I enjoyed the opportunity to experience it in my home town of Cinnaminson, New Jersey.

I always credit performers courageous enough to perform roles iconized by other actors. It’s much harder to do this while playing a character that’s become a recognizable part of mainstream pop culture. Steve Phillips’ portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge would’ve made Dickens proud while making Reginald Owen and George C. Scott jealous. With his top hat, gray mutton chops and warm bass toned “Bah, Humbug” he made Scrooge his own.

While a talented singer, I enjoyed listening to Mr. Phillips’ speaking voice the most. Just a thought: could an audiobook of A Christmas Carol be in his future?

If I may borrow a song title from the show, I had a “jolly good time” listening to the singing. The return of Footlighters veterans Ryan PJ Mulholland, Colin Becker, Kaitlyn Delengowski, Carla Ezell and Rick Williams made for an early Christmas present. Buddy Deal’s (in the role of the Ghost of Christmas Present) upbeat crooning with his ensemble on the “Abundance and Charity” number made “Holly Jolly Christmas” sound like a depressing grunge song by comparison. The dancers accompanied this track with a well-choreographed (by Laci DeLuca) soft shoe tap dance. I thought the women’s matching red and green dresses took the Christmassy feel into overdrive.

The most unforgettable routine occurred during the “Link by Link” number. This song began solo by Vinnie DiFilippo (as Jacob Marley) and evolved into a Riverdance-esque dance number with a male ensemble. It served as a cautionary tale to Scrooge about how he’d spend eternity wearing the chain he built in life. I admired the group’s ability to sing and dance flawlessly while attired with cumbersome props.

Ryan Mulholland and Scott Angehr deserve immense praise for their work on the costuming. It impressed me the most about this show. An award wouldn’t be enough to recognize their efforts. They earned a medal. Mr. Mulholland played Bob Cratchit. The authenticity of his clothes showed superb attention to detail. He wore scuffed shoes. Holes showed on both his pants and jacket. Their condition displayed the level of Mr. Cratchit’s impoverishment. The chains and lock boxes Mr. DiFilipo adorned as Jacob Marley appeared very realistic. The long white gown Ms. Delengowski wore accentuated by the glitter dotting her face and hair animated the sprightly Ghost of Christmas Past. The long green robe and holly hat did the same for Buddy Deal as the mirthful Ghost of Christmas Present.

Jim Frazer’s one of the best set designers on the South Jersey Community Theatre circuit. His skills reached another level in A Christmas Carol. I suspect if Norman Rockwell had painted a romanticized image of a Victorian Christmas village, it would have looked like this set. The small winter lights in the windows added an authentic touch. Mr. Frazer crafted the rotating stage extraordinarily well. The multiple levels and the faux fireplace presented an authentic image of Scrooge’s home. When turned around this set became the front of the residence. While an intricate stage-upon-the-stage, crew members managed to turn it around and move it back-and-forth without difficulty. The set construction crew deserves kudos for building this elaborate spectacle so well.

This Holiday Season you will be visited by three ghosts. The Ghost of Christmas Past will transport you to the first time you read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Your youthful self will say, “What a great story. I wish I could see it performed as a musical.” Then the Ghost of Christmas Present will explain what a phenomenal production of this beloved tale Burlington County Footlighters is presenting this December. Afterwards you’ll receive a harrowing visitation from the Ghost of Christmas Future. This apparition will transport you to January of 2017. You’ll be pining for the past Yuletide season. Then you’ll see a playbill that reads the final performance of this show occurred on 12/11/16. Then the Ghost of Christmas Present will return. He’ll warn you that this is one possible future. You still have the power to change it. And for that, “God bless us everyone.”