NSMT’s ‘Carol’ is the gift that keeps on giving

Members of the Cratchit family and David Coffee as Ebenezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol." Photo: Paul Lyden

Members of the Cratchit family and David Coffee as Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol.” Photo: Paul Lyden

BEVERLY – Twenty-five years old? Perhaps, but this production of “A Christmas Carol” is a theatrical Christmas card that still seems new every time you open it.

The North Shore Music Theatre is marking its 25th production of its adaptation of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic, and it remains a North Shore holiday icon, with enough spectacular special effects and scary ghosts to keep the kids entranced, and music, dancing and a timeless story all theater-goers can enjoy.

The production has been seen by more than a million people and it’s all anchored, of course, by David Coffee, marking the 22nd time he has played Ebenezer Scrooge. The native of Arlington, Texas has long since become an honorary New Englander off his portrayal of Scrooge’s redemption from miserable miser to Christmas angel.

There was a nice moment before the production when NSMT owner Bill Hanney and Artistic Director Kevin P. Hill honored former NSMT artistic director Jon Kimbell on the occasion of the 25th production of the adaptation he crafted along with other former NSMT staffers.

Freddie Kimmel and Daviod Coffee in "A Christmas Carol." Photo: Paul Lyden.

Freddie Kimmel and David Coffee in “A Christmas Carol.” Photo: Paul Lyden.

Cheryl McMahon returns as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper, and her comedic chemistry with Coffee has also stood the test of time.

Russell Garrett is a warm and wonderful Bob Cratchit while Bronson Norris Murphy is an ebullient Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, whose Christmas dinner invitations to his uncle are not-very-politely declined.

Any production that finds a way for Leigh Barrett to sing is doing the right thing, as Barrett brings the requisite warmth to Mrs. Cratchit, she also shines as well in performing “The Little Child,” and also in taking Scrooge on his first journey as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Peter S. Adams cuts a majestic presence as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Tommy Labanaris is The Narrator of the tale, a character added by Kimbell for his version whose presence contains a plot twist.

The poignant, heartbreaking scene between Young Scrooge and his fiancee Belle is capably handled by Andrew Tighe and Lenni Alexandra Kmiec.

J.T. Turner is a welcome presence as Fezziwig and the unfortunate gentleman who, along with Adams, seeks a Christmas donation from Scrooge.

Nathaniel Braga and Brad Trump are the lively, acrobatic Pearlies, the spirits inspired by the 19th Century street performers who aid The Narrator in moving the story forward.

But always there is David Coffee, and the warmth of his personality shines through in his magical transformation from miserly grinch to giddy Christmas angel, overflowing with love.

NSMT Artistic Director Kevin P. Hill directs and choreographs, and Hill has shown his talent for creative movement on the NSMT stage recently in “Sister Act,” and the members of the cast of this production move beautifully, from the older performers to the youngest.

The younger performers do just fine keeping upo with their more experienced castmates – many of them are veterans of several NSMT productions such as Giacomo Favazza, Jillian Furber, Haveb Pereira and Scarlett Keene-Connole.

The tradition endures as Coffee takes the time after the bows to do a “victory lap” and shake hands and pose for pictures with theater-goers, many of whom are longtime friends.

To everything, there is a season, and nothing lasts forever. So if you haven’t seen this production or it’s been a while, treat your family or a loved one to an enduring classic.

The North Shore Music Theatre production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Adapted by Jon Kimbell, assisted by David James and David Zoffoli. Original music composed and arranged by Alby Potts and James Woodland. Directed and Choreographed by Kevin P. Hill. Music direction by Milton Granger. Original scenic design by Howard C. Jones. Resident costume designer Paula Peasely-Ninestein. Lighting design by Jack Mehler. Sound design by Leon Rothenburg. At the North Shore Music Theatre through Dec. 23. http://www.nsmt.org.