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CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” weekends through Dec. 13, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO“A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” weekends through Dec. 13, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem.

Theater Review: A good-natured ‘Carol’ at Pa. Youth Theatre

Friday, December 11, 2015 by DEB BOYLANSpecial to The Press in Focus

Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is the ultimate tale of economic inequality and individual redemption. It is as timely in today’s society as it was in the Victorian era when it was penned. Perhaps that is a sad commentary. But as always, hope for redemption springs eternal.

Dickens’ “Christmas Carol” is an annual tradition for many theater troupes. Some present it as a dark cautionary tale, while others give it a lighter spin.

Pennsylvania Youth Theatre relies on the later strategy and the result is a good-natured spectacle filled with song, dance and fabulous acting.

“A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” weekends through Dec. 13, Charles A. Brown Ice House, Bethlehem, features two large casts, the Abundance Cast and the Charity Cast, alternating between performances with some overlap occurring in lead roles. For this review, the Abundance cast was seen.

Ebenezer Scrooge (Jack Armstrong) begins the play as an intolerable skinflint. Aided by the three Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, Scrooge ultimately realizes the error of his ways. Armstrong is animated and expressive as Scrooge’s transformation unfolds.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (Chloe Mondok) joyfully guides Scrooge through a “This Is Your Life” glimpse at his past. Camille Armstrong as the Ghost of Christmas Present has a riveting stage presence and Katja Magyarics as the Ghost of Christmas Future “speaks” to Scrooge through the art of dance.

Scrooge is shown at various stages in life: eight-years-old (Noah J.S. Ritter), 12 (Alex Vogelgesang) and as a young man (Cameron Miller).

Ben Johnson as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s long-suffering employee, is humble and kind. And who doesn’t love adorable and sweet Tiny Tim (Mackenzie Morgan)?

Musical highlights are “Link By Link,” performed by the chain-laden ghost of Jacob Marley (Jerry Carrier), and several dancing ghosts (Dylan Brown, Hannah Flanders, Sarah Flanders, Lindsey Miller, Penny Pearson, Alex Vogelgesang and Sarah Vogelgesang) performing a complex dance routine.

Another highlight is the tap dance number; “Abundance & Charity,” that closes out Act 1, featuring the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge and a large cast of young dancers.

“Mr. Fezziwig’s Annual Christmas Ball,” led by Mr. Fezziwig (Rob F. Hercik III) and Mrs. Fezziwig (Barbara Vogelgesang), is a hoot and even Scrooge is caught on the sidelines smiling and joining the fun.

Choreographers Dedrea Becker, Jerri L Brown, Brittany Gordon and Melissa Keiser have done an outstanding job coordinating the large cast of mostly young actors in advanced, technical dance sequences.

Musical accompaniment is provided by a recorded soundtrack. Sound Engineer Daniel Crawford ensures volume is consistent. Music and vocals blend seamlessly. Music Director Phil Diaz does a masterful job keeping vocal performances on point.

Director Jill Dunn Jones and the entire technical crew can take a bow for bringing this large-scale production to life. The cast of child and adult actors is terrific.

Pennsylvania Youth Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol: The Musical” delights audiences of all ages and should be a destination on any family’s holiday calendar.

Tickets: 123pyt.tix.com, 610-332-1400