Ahh, Christmas in the Philippines. The time of good holiday cheer, spending time with loved ones and those you haven’t seen in a while, braving the increased traffic to get to the malls to finish gift shopping — all done to the ubiquitous sounds of Jose Mari Chan’s Christmas album. You know what I mean.
I never actually knew where Jose Mari Chan got those songs he covered in that album, so you can imagine my surprise when I sat down to the press preview of Scrooge The Musical at OnStage Greenbelt a few weeks ago, and the ensemble cast opened with the song “A Christmas Carol”.
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As the musical unfolded, it showed Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly treatment of all the people around him, including himself, the spooky haunting of Scrooge by his departed business partner Marley, and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future helping Scrooge see the error of his ways. The cast, led by Miguel Faustmann as Scrooge, was amazing and on point, and while the sound mixing still had kinks to be ironed out (Miguel’s mic didn’t seem to be catching a lot of sound), the OnStage theater was small enough for their voices to carry through.
My familiarity with most of the songs helped me hear them with new ears. They are so overplayed from September through December and thus lose their meaning, but within the framework of the musical they are re-imbued with their magic and also bring back memories of wonderful Christmases past.
I have always been accustomed to seeing A Christmas Carol as a non-musical film or TV special aired during Christmas time — I can still remember very vividly Bill Murray’s Scrooge film. I didn’t know that it was a musical, with book, music, and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse. Being the cultural illiterate I am, the first time I heard of Scrooge The Musical was when Repertory Philippines sent me a press release about them staging it this time of year (more specifically, November 21 to December 14). When they offered tickets to the press preview, I jumped at the chance.
This is the fourth time Repertory Philippines has staged an adaptation of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The story follows the miserly life of banker Ebenezer Scrooge and his journey towards realizing the true spirit of Christmas through three ghosts: that of his past, present, and future.
In my life I have only ever been to about ten plays, but I’ve never seen one with full production values. Scrooge The Musical takes you into the Victorian England setting from the book, with sets swiftly transforming from exteriors to interiors, from the street marketplace into an office, from the outside of Scrooge’s house into his living room and bedroom. As an adult I found myself marveling at the stagecraft. I can imagine the kids in the audience asking their moms and dad excitedly, “How did they do that?!”
This is the last weekend for Scrooge The Musical at OnStage Greenbelt. If you haven’t seen it yet, I highly recommend you do! Today’s matinee performance is already sold out. You can purchase Scrooge tickets via Ticketworld.
While Scrooge can be very entertaining, I think it also reminds us that Christmas shouldn’t be about material things. Rather, the giving of gifts should be from the overflow of gratitude and thankfulness in our hearts as we remember the Reason for the season. (It isn’t called “Christ-mas” for nothing.)