‘A Seussified Christmas Carol’
By Peter Bloedel
Studio Playhouse, 14 Alvin Place
Dec. 9, 10, 16, 17,1:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Studioplayhouse.org, or 973-744-9752
By STEFANIE SEARS
For Montclair Local
Mix Charles Dickens and Dr. Seuss and you might have something like Peter Bloedel’s “A Seussified Christmas Carol,” which opens at Studio Playhouse on Saturday, Dec. 9.
The play also inadvertently throws another classic author into the mix. Its rhyming structure and rhythm is a bit like Shakespeare, said director Beatriz Esteban-Messina.
“A Seussified Christmas Carol” is the latest Magic Trunk children’s show.
Esteban-Messina said during a break in rehearsal this past weekend that the show was a challenge for actors, and for her: “If you forget a line in a regular show, but you sort of know where you’re heading towards, you can say it in some convoluted way, you can still get your point out. But with this, it’s got a rhyme at the end, so if you don’t get the right thing out, you have to make up a rhyme on the spot. So I said to them, don’t try to make it rhyme, because it won’t work.
“You have to say it like you’re in a Shakespearean play. You just say the lines as they are regularly written and it just happens to have a similar sound.”
“Bea has tried to get us not to do it in cadence, like a poem, so in that respect, you have to put a little more personality into delivering the lines,” said Jack Pignatello, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
For both Esteban-Messina and Pignatello, the reunion between Scrooge and Jacob Marley (played by John Fraissinet, who also doubles as Bob Cratchit) is a favorite scene. Esteban-Messina considers it the best-written scene in the play.
Montclair resident Elizabeth Quinoñes, who plays the Ghost of a Christmas Present, has been involved with Studio Players for about two years. In this version of Dickens’ tale, the Ghost is actually a present, with a bow.
Clad in red and green and other interesting Christmas garb provided by costume designer Francesca Stokes (who also plays a narrator, alongside Judy Wilson, last seen in “Plaza Suite”), Quinoñes darts onstage and remains a huge presence throughout her scenes. She says that her performance was inspired by her playfulness with her nieces and nephews.
“They really like the exaggerated animated movements. Just like really big and out there. I think the idea of also living in the present, especially for the Ghost of a Christmas Present, of enjoying the here and now, everything is great, this is awesome. For me, that’s very interesting, because I am more futuristic, planning, and sometimes it is a challenge for me to enjoy the moment now, so that’s been really fun to see what it would look like for me to live in the moment and then magnify that times three as the Ghost of a Christmas Present. Using those exaggerated gestures in an entertaining way that is relatable for children. I’m the ridiculous, crazy aunt with my nieces and nephews. They enjoy it. So since this is a kids’ show, I want to bring that to the table to entertain kids in that way,” she said.
The cast of “A Seussified Christmas Carol” ranges widely in age, and includes families. John Fraissinet’s wife, Donna Fraissinet, plays his onstage wife, Mrs. Cratchit. Donna made her Studio Players debut in “Wooing Wed Widing Hood” as Little Red’s couch-potato mother Mrs. Hood in October, and will be seen next as leading lady Marion Hollander in Woody Allen’s “Don’t Drink the Water” in January.
Donna has been cast in the role of a mother a few times by Studio Players. In real life she only has one child, so she enjoys the young cast members of “Seussified,” both onstage and off.
“I kind of fell in love with all of my kids,” Donna said, “These kids in this play, they know all their cues, so they know all of the lines. It’s wonderful. It’s just delightful. They come up with their own ideas. It’s really a lot of fun.”
Shakespeare might approve.