By Beth Dodd:
The Thin Air Theatre Company opened its holiday show, A Cripple Creek Christmas Carol and Christmas Olio, this past Friday, November 30th at the Butte Theater in Cripple Creek. The production is a clever blend of the classic Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol and gold camp history. The play has been a holiday favorite since its introduction in 2002, with professional and community actors teaming up to present this timeless work.
The show was originally written for the Butte stage by Chris Armbrister, who plays Bob Womack in the 2012 production. In a role reminiscent of the rookie angel “Clarence” from It’s A Wonderful Life, the ghost of Bob Womack is charged with helping the Scrooge-like Zacariah Gooch (played by Rob Scharlow) find the Christmas spirit.
The need to help Gooch see the error of his ways becomes clear after he fires his clerk Thomas Crockett (Kevin Pierce) on Christmas Eve, forcing him and his frail child Little Tom (Ryan Clare) to spend a cold holiday camped on Tenderfoot Hill. Womack is aided in his quest to save Gooch by other historic figures from the gold camp, including Doc Suzie (Madeline Fallier), Mollie Kathleen Gortner (Steph Hilliard), and Winfield Stratton (JD Hilliard).
The performance is a wonderful experience for the whole family, with a mix of drama, music, and comedy. Rob Scharlow shows his marvelous versatility as a performer with his singing of “Christmas Is For Suckers!” as the despicable Zacariah Gooch, and then as Santa during the Olio, putting together a misguided musical for his elves.
The Christmas Olio following the play is great fun as Santa turns his talents to creating a show for his elves, including a rendition of Blue Suede Shoes. “Sorry I meant elves, not Elvis. Must have been a typo!” and the hilarious “Santa Tango” performed by Chris Armbrister, Kevin Pierce, Rob Scharlow, Rebecca Myers, and Madeline Fallier.
There are also some sweet moments in the production. Mel Moser is poignant in his final scene as Fergus O’Flaherty, a forgotten friend of Zacariah Gooch. Kevin Pierce and Steph Hilliard perform a beautiful duet at the beginning of “Oh, Holy Night” during the Olio.
The local youth performers in the show all preformed remarkably, with a polish that showcased their budding talents. Cresson Elementary fifth grade student, Ryan Clare, is charming as Little Tom with his unbounded Christmas spirit.
The show will run through December 30th at the Butte Theater at 139 E. Bennett Ave. in Cripple Creek. Tickets range from $8.25 to $13.25. As is the tradition with this Christmas show, The Thin Air Theatre Company offers a gift to the community of reduced ticket prices. For reservations, or if you would like to become a sponsor for the 2013 season, go to www.ButteTheater.com.