Nancy Sasso Janis
- Connecticut Critic
- Connecticut Critics Circle
“Well, dill my pickle…..I still got it!” - Earlene Babcock
Waterbury, CT - Earlene Babcock, the alter ego of the wonderfully talented Michelle Gotay, is back on the Seven Angels stage in a new production conceived and written by Semina De Laurentis. “Writing a new show each year for Earlene and all her friends has been a fun process” for the Artistic Director of Seven Angels, who also directs this community production. This year diner waitress/owner Earlene gets to play the lead in the beloved Dickens’ classic in the aptly-named ‘The Christmas Carol at Earlene’s Diner,’ and because the script gives this wonderful character actress a bit more to do, it will be my current favorite.
‘The Christmas Carol’ is coming to Pottsville, but the actor playing Scrooge is snowed in somewhere in NYC. Of course Miss Earlene steps up, somewhat reluctantly, to save the day with hilarious results. Carey Cannata plays her college-aged director and he spends much of the first act trying to keep her in line. The song list contains some of the best numbers from previous visits to the diner, but there are also some new additions in keeping with the new storyline. Marley (played to the hilt by John Fabiani) and Scrooge sing “We’re in the Money” and Holly Martin as a younger version of Scrooge sings an amazing version of “Hard Candy Christmas.” Young Scrooge, Little Scrooge (played well by Angelina Emanuel,) and Scrooge’s sister Fanny (played by WAMS student Sydney Yargeau) blend beautifully on “No One is Alone” from ‘Into the Woods.’
I was glad to see that WATR’s Tom Chute as Tommie Palladino got to perform both “Christmas in Killarney” (with his son played by Noah Ryan) and the classic “Keeping Christmas.” The chorus of men on “O Holy Night” should never be cut, and I would have missed Earlene’s riotous tour de force in “12 Steps of Christmas” that closes the first act if it had not been included. But I also loved the topical references to the cost of Epi-pens and auditioning for ‘Hamilton’ as well as the new way to include an audience member in the fun.
Ms. Gotay is at her comedic best when she driving her director crazy (and Mr. Cannata’s reactions are priceless) or offering her running commentary as the Dickens’ classic is brought to life. I could never get tired of watching her perform in her waitress uniform and over-sized blonde wig. Michael Sacco is the Ghost of Christmas Past in the body of Elvis, and he is a great Elvis. Santa Claus (played once again by the cherub Tim Cleary) takes Miss Scrooge through the present Christmas and Matthew Conroy dons the black mask of a classic Star Wars character to play the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Alexander Niatopsky shines as Scrooge’s nephew Fred and sings “Imagine” with passion, while Gary Rosengrant plays the underpaid Bob Cratchit, Sr. before heading to the lobby to photograph theatre patrons with Santa and Earlene herself. Theresa B. Amico returns to this stage as Lorraine and both Church and Gossip Ladies, and Joe Stofko stepped in as Earlene’s unlikely understudy because he fit into the dress. The talented Holly Martin also did well as Mary Lou, who fills in for Earlene as Master of Ceremonies for the annual talent show.
Patrick Ganci sang a beautiful “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” and then played violin on another number. Michael Meier made his 7A debut as the lead singer on the Act 2 Opener with all of the young actors. Also in the cast are Sharon Amundsen, Hayley Conroy, Diane DeLucia, Zachary Fareira, Olivia Lanteri, Norma Jean Lombard, Anthony Marchetti, his mom Michele Marchetti, Zachary Petrarca, Ariel Pierre, Isabella Pinto, Nicole Thomas, Marissa White and the memorable William Wilson.
John Carter choreographed the show and the dancers did well with all of it. Claire Gaudette did the fun costume design and Dan Husvar was in charge of scenic and prop design. Lighting designer was Scott Cally and Matt Martin was announced as the awesome sound designer; I loved the voices of Semina and himself talking to the cast.
Joe Ganci is the music director this year and was called by name by more than one cast member, breaking slightly the third wall. He performs on the piano in the pit at the corner of stage left, with Mary Ryan on drums and Dan Kraszweski on bass.
Do join in on the sing-a-long for the Christmas Medley and get in line for a photo with Santa and possibly order up one with Earlene herself. There are three more chances to catch this fun community production at Seven Angels on Tuesday, Wednesday and closing night on Thursday.
Pictured: Michelle Gotay as Earlene Babcock, John Fabiani as Jacob Marley and Carey Cannata as Kelsey