Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge is 5th Wall’s irreverent X-mas masterpiece
5th Wall Theatre delighted holiday revelers with the musical Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge at The Speakeasy in early December. Hilarity ensued. It was the perfect antidote to those “sickeningly sweet holiday things.” My partner laughed so hard his teeth almost fell out. I laughed so hard I nearly . . . oh, you know.
Binge turns the tried and true story of Ebenezer Scrooge finding the true meaning of Christmas on its head. In this version, Scrooge enjoys searching the newspaper for announcements of the next public executions. He’s invested in a Ponzi-type scheme for selling “energy units” and bilking people of their hard-earned money.
Bob Cratchit [Carlen Kernish] is married to a drunken, suicidal floozy [Lanaya Burnette Van Driesen] who can’t stand her dozens of children, and constantly complains that they’re hungry all the time.
The ghost – it’s just one in this story – is brilliantly portrayed by Katrinah Carol Lewis who navigates the journey to redeeming Ebenezer Scrooge. Lots of things go wrong along the way: she can’t time travel to save herself, she constantly gets lost, and she gets the past, present and future visits all out of order. Even with a guest appearance by Clarence from It’s a Wonderful Life can’t get this redemption story back on track.
Scrooge isn’t redeemed. Not even close.
In the end, he’s a money-hungry, wife-stealing (she’s the ex-Mrs. Bob Cratchit) hotel magnate in 1977 (can you say Helmsley) who takes great pleasure in her cruelty towards their employees. “Bah Humbug!” remains his favorite expression. And he never loses his desire to put nasty bugs in people’s hair.
Tiny Tim doesn’t die in the end. Instead, he’s reincarnated as a dog in the new Cratchit family (Bob remarries). Tiny Tim is played by the very talented 11-year old Brandon McKinney who is also currently performing in Mame. McKinney has wonderful stage presence and a lovely singing voice.
Only Bob Cratchit never loses the true spirit of Christmas. He may be poor financially, but he is not poor of spirit. This is the second time I’ve seen Kernish perform. He’s new to Richmond and I hope to see him in many more endeavors. He plays sweet, and charming and adorable so well. Maybe he’s like that in person, too?
The message? Some people are jerks. Some are poor. Some are drunk. And yes, some are actually nice, good, kind, and charitable. That’s life. It takes a village. And, to really appreciate the good, maybe you have to mix in the bad. Stop meddling in others’ affairs and live your own life.
I like this anti-message.
Binge was performed as a staged reading of Christopher Durang’s irreverent play. Billy Christopher Maupin, 5th Wall Theatre’s Associate Artistic Director, likes staged readings as they “afford an opportunity for a work that might not otherwise be presented in front of an audience,” and because they give the actors a chance to “stretch their muscles a bit without a great deal of time commitment…”
For Binge Maupin assembled a stellar cast with standout performances and great music.
5th Wall Theatre is showing, once again, you don’t need to travel beyond RVA to get great talent.
Julie Harthill Clayton is an out and proud bisexual with a passion for reading, writing . . . and NOT arithmetic. Her work has appeared in the Christian Science Monitor, the Internet Review of Books, Curve Magazine, Lambda Literary and more. She is working on her first novel - Two Tickets to Freedom - a semi-autobiographical queer coming-of-age tale. A paralegal by day, Julie spends her free time knitting, writing, and reading anything she can get her hands on. She lives in Richmond with her partner, local artist David Turner, and their mischievous and loving hunting dog, Max.
Billy Christopher Maupin offers two nights of cabaret charm with ‘This Fish Needs a Bicycle’ at The Camel
“The show is about me embracing myself as an artist . . . not wasting my life . . . and focusing on the future,”August 4, 2016
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