- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 14, 2002

Signature Theatre's "The Christmas Carol Rag" is an excellent choice for holiday entertainment. It serves up 90 minutes of Charles Dickens' old faithful set in early 20th-century New York with a new plot twist, plenty of singing and a fabulous stage design.
Set designer Lou Stancari has created a very Dickensian landscape with brick look-alike facades complete with fire escapes and old-style streetlights. The set dimensions are warped to create depth and perspective.
Scrooge lives and works on the set's main street, but in director Eric Schaeffer's rendition of the old tale, Scrooge is a woman, played by the fantastic Donna Migliaccio. Her old, dead colleague, Janet Marley (yes, Marley, too, is a woman), is played by Dana Krueger. Miss Krueger succeeds in making her character both sympathetic and scary as she tries to persuade Scrooge to take a path different from that of greed and selfishness.
The ghost appearances, which are many, of course, are accompanied by great banging, crashing and swooshing sounds that sound designer David Maddox uses to add a fair amount of spookiness to the story.
The costumes by Reggie Ray have the same effect. When Mr. Ray is not working with the balls and chains of Marley's troubled past, he successfully transports us back a century to the era of checkered pants, slim waists and puffy dress sleeves.
Also contributing to the look of 100 years ago is hair-and-wig designer Christie Kelly, who brings us big hair and exaggerated locks.
The musical arrangements by Howard Breitbart are a delight, featuring old ragtime tunes from the first half of the 20th century set to new lyrics that reflect the Dickens story line. The dozen or so songs are performed by pianist Jennifer Cartney and sung by the entire nine-member cast, which has good and bad moments.
The singing is very uneven. Some mouths shouldn't have opened, while others emit brilliant sounds. One expects a musical to have all top-notch voices.
Though the actors don't always hit their mark when singing, they certainly do when acting.
The cast is solid, with Miss Migliaccio and Miss Krueger being delightful as the old curmudgeons-turned-generous-souls. Miss Migliaccio has a thundering voice and a stern face to go with her Scrooge persona, while Miss Krueger's wiry frame and trembling voice are perfect for her angst-ridden ghost.
Mr. Schaeffer and writer Noman Allen (who conceived and adapted the musical) have succeeded in bringing something new to this old rag of a tale, which is welcome because most of the population has seen, heard and/or read it a thousand times.
"The Christmas Carol Rag" brings out the best of Dickens and the holiday season the goodness of giving and the badness of greediness while adding plenty of pizazz and fun.

WHAT: "The Christmas Carol Rag"
WHERE: Signature Theatre, 3806 S. Four Mile Run Drive
WHEN: 8 p.m. today, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. tomorrow; 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday through Dec. 29. No performance Dec. 25.
TICKETS: $20 to $38
PHONE: 703/218-6500

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