In its successful and never-ending quest to surprise and delight Southland audiences, the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra has engaged legendary skinflint Ebenezer Scrooge for two appearances this weekend.
English literature's infamous miser, portrayed by Oak Lawn native John Boss (read an interview with the actor here), appears with a lavishly costumed cast--and the IPO--in an hour adaptation of Leslie Bricusse's Scrooge: The Musical. The production, part of the IPO's Harris Holiday Concert, is directed by Etel Billig and runs Dec. 18-19, at the in Frankfort.
"I'm a tremendous fan of Leslie Bricusse," said Carmen DeLeone, IPO musical director. "He's a brilliant composer, brilliant lyricist and knows how to write for the stage (with) the right balance between the book and the songs."
Based on the 1843 Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol, the musical follows the transformation of wealthy and avaricious landlord Ebenezer Scrooge following his visions with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
"I've thought about doing this Scrooge with the IPO and did it in Middleton, Ohio, a few years ago," DeLeone said. "There is a lot of talent in this area. So when Etel joined the team, I figured as long as we have a partner in crime to make this work out, I'm pretty confident it will have success."
Billig, the longtime artistic director of Illinois Theatre Center in Park Forest as well as an acclaimed actor, said she's ecstatic about working on this production. Her main challenge, however, revolves around pulling everyone together for rehearsals.
"It's very hard to coordinate everyone's schedules, but rewarding to see it all come together," she said. "We do 14 musical numbers in 55 minutes."
Tiny Tim's wistful song "The Beautiful Day," the rollicking "I Like Life," which the Ghost of Christmas Present sings to Scrooge, and the debtors' lively "Thank You Very Much," in which they celebrate the occasion of Scrooge's death, are just a few of the memorable numbers Bricusse weaves into his script.
Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwigg from Scrooge's past, portrayed by returning guest opera singers Maria Michuda of Frankfort and Benjamin Warschawski of Baltimore, lead their holiday house guests in the bouncy, festive production number, "December 25th."
"Everyone is working hard together. … It's exciting," Billig continued. "This is a wonderful show with a great message. The Lincoln-Way stage crew is fantastic, all professionals, and the stage is bigger than the Goodman's."
DeLeone is guardedly optimistic audiences will fall in love with the IPO production.
"If it is well-received, we hope to do this it next year," he said.
Although DeLeone retires as the IPO musical director at the end of this season, he will return to conduct a few concerts next year, including the holiday gala.
Before the IPO's Scrooge: The Musical, the concert will focus on a potpourri of holiday tunes led by a jingling "Sleigh Ride." The Lincoln-Way Area Chorale, members of the South Suburban Chorale, a cappella vocalists from the Lincoln-Way Madrigal singers and guest stars Michuda and Warschawski join the orchestra for an eclectic selection of holiday numbers.
When: 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Where: Lincoln-Way East Performing Arts Center, 201 Colorado Ave. Frankfort
More info: Call 708-481-7774 or go to the IPO's website.