I think it’s fair to say that Pittsburgh punches above its weight in terms of its artistic offerings, and its holiday smorgasbord is no exception: it seems that every theater, restaurant, museum, and gallery in the city has welcomed the season with bells on. Bricolage’s 2019 entry is a returning installment in their Midnight Radio series titled Yinzer Scrooged, a Pittsburgh-based adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Put simply, it makes for a delightful, festive evening that updates the classic story without watering down the elements that have made it so compelling for over a century.
The Midnight Radio series is, according to the Bricolage website, “a long-time fan favorite that takes the form of a classic 1940s radio broadcast complete with commercial parodies, musical underscoring, and live Foley sound effects.” The mashup of theater and radio is addictive to watch: seeing the people behind the curtain only enhances the joy of hearing their work come to life. The five performers of Yinzer Scrooged juggle the responsibilities of voicing multiple characters each (complete with flawless Yinzer accents where applicable) while providing sound effects for the show, and their hard work pays off in a seamless total experience: whether the scene is a commercial for a Pittsburghese-translating app or the emotionally weighty visit from the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, the quality of the show never wavers.
The story won’t be a surprise to anyone, though the names might bring something new to the table: the evening’s primary narrator is Barbara Cratchit (performed endearingly by Jaime Slavinsky), who tells the tale of how her boss, Mr. Scroogoff (Wali Jamal, whose resonant voice lends itself beautifully to the part), miraculously transformed from steel-hearted tycoon to beloved philanthropist one magical Christmas eve. He’s helped along the way, of course, by a familiar but recast cadre of characters: a chain-bedecked Andrew Carnegie and pensive Mr. Rogers (both performed with impressive and charming accuracy by Michael McBurney), an unapologetically witty Lena Horne (played with panache by Shammen McCune), and the always-endearing Tiny Tony (with Connor McCanlus ensuring that Tony’s sweetness stops short of the saccharine).
The combination of Tami Dixon’s adaptation and Sam Turich’s direction makes for an immensely enjoyable update to this holiday heavyweight, breathing new life into an old tradition. Of course, it wouldn’t be, as its subtitle indicates, A Pittsburgh Christmas Carol without a host of references to local culture, but the show never comes across as patronizing. The references are deployed in service to the story, which means it retains the same emotional power it always has: Mr. Scroogoff wrestles with his conscience as it relates not only to his own life, but the lives of his employees and, by extension, all of his fellow humans, too. The message isn’t complicated, but it’s still as timely as ever.
Yinzer Scrooged runs Dahntahn through December 21st. Be sure to arrive early for a free pre-show happy half-hour and special events throughout the month. Tickets are already selling out, so order yours and find out more about the show here.
Laura Caton grew up as a military brat and has lived in six states and two countries, but considers Pittsburgh her adopted hometown. She moved back to Pittsburgh in 2017 after four years of working in theater administration in New York City. When she’s not writing about theater, she can be found translating German novels, watching anything that bears even a passing resemblance to a Nora Ephron movie, and reading omnivorously.
Categories: Archived Reviews