Sunday, December 8, 2013

A Christmas Carol starring Patrick Earl

Patrick Earl as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol.
Photo by Michael Bailey.
OK, first of all, I really enjoy Dickens' A Christmas Carol and I really enjoy the staged version at the ASC. I do not especially like attending the shows though because it is not the typical Blackfriars audience. Very rarely do you see any regulars in attendance and there are always a lot of children and people unfamiliar with the style and etiquette of the Blackfriars. I was not going to attend this year, but I decided I would because I wanted to see how Patrick Earl's Scrooge would differ from the three previous ones (Keegan, Harrell, Thornton, Jr.). Earl, who always delivers, quite capably lives up to the performances of his predecessors, and the fact that he is significantly younger than the typical Scrooge never comes into play. He's not the meanest Scrooge I've ever seen, but he perhaps makes the most joyful transition to a being in possession of human kindness with a philanthropic bent of the performances I've seen at the ASC.

Patrick Midgley does a masterful job spinning the play's yarn as The Narrator (and gives the ladies something to smile about in the pre-show). Rick Blunt makes Scrooge's nephew Fred a more boisterous, gregarious character, a good trait for the "in the holiday spirit" Fred. Andrew Goldwasser has the audience's sympathy as the overworked, underpaid Bob Cratchit. Russell Daniels is hilarious as the Ghost of Christmas Present, as is Joey Ibanez as the Plump Sister, and Emily Joshi-Powell ably plays everybody's favorite Tiny Tim.

If you like A Christmas Carol or just want a bit of holiday cheer, then I'd recommend seeing the ASC's version--get your tickets quick--they are going fast as this show is always in demand.

The Twelve Dates of Christmas starring Allison Glenzer

I've seen every run of The Twelve Dates of Christmas at the ASC. The first two were performed by the writer: ASC veteran Ginna Hoben, and the last two by Allison Glenzer. While the story remains the same, both actors bring their own nuances to the role. Glenzer's performance this year is a bit more emotional than Hoben's, whereas Hoben excelled with the comedic bits. That's not to say Glenzer doesn't follow through with the laughs; the crowd was howling all night, but they were also ooing and awwing and shedding a few tears as well. All in all, this is a really good production (I personally think it holds up much better than the greying at the temples Santaland Diaries and is a better play in general) and Glenzer turns in yet another masterful performance.
Allison Glenzer as Mary in The 12 Dates of ChristmasPhoto by Michael Bailey.

To those not familiar with the story, the play is about a New York City based actor in her mid-30s, from Ohio named Mary. Mary loves the holidays (especially Thanksgiving) until she sees her fiance passionately kissing his sluttish co-worker during the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. To further the humiliation, she sees the betrayal on national TV while attending Thanksgiving lunch at her parent's house in Ohio and receives an alarming number of phone calls and texts about the televised tryst. Mary dumps her fiance, deposits her engagement ring in a Salvation Army kettle, and attempts to get on with her life. She's set-up on a series of comically bad and bizarre dates by friends and family (Exercise Sally and Aunt Cathy are the best) for the next year.

Joining Alli on stage are Bridget Rue and Stephanie Holladay Earl as the "Doo Wop Girls." They and Chris Johnston provide the musical entertainment before and during the play. You'll even get to hear a couple of original holiday songs by Johnston ("Come Back Home (this Christmas)" is available on iTunes). If you like a little sass with your holiday stories, then this play is the one for you.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Newly Relocated Shenandoah Hops

Owner John Huggins at Shenandoah Hops.
A few months ago, John and Cheryl Huggins relocated their beer/wine/local groceries shop to the Wharf District in Staunton (29 Byers St.). The huge selection of beers made the old spot on New Street too tight of a fit, so they moved to their new shop which has much more elbow room and more browseability. The beer selection is better than ever- anything from Natty Boh to high end local ciders, kombuchas, over 50 IPAs and many traditional English and Scottish ales. As for regional selections, they stock all the Virginia favorites (Blue Mountain, Legend, Starr Hill, Devil's Backbone, Parkway, Roanoke Railhouse, Wild Wolf, Bold Rock, etc.), and several from Maryland (Duclaw, Heavy Seas), North Carolina (Natty Greene's, Highland, Foothills), Delaware (Dogfish Head), and Pennsylvania (Weyerbacher, Stoudts, Lionshead, Troegs, etc.) not to mention other brews from all over the nation and the world. Every Friday night they feature a beer tasting, featuring a couple of their many offerings. And to make things even more comfortable, they've installed a big leather sofa so you can sit back and converse with the always genial Huggins family or other patrons.

Hops is not just a beer and wine store, but a local specialty grocery store as well. You can get local handmade soaps, Virginia peanuts, locally made crafts, sauces, and canned jellies and jams. If you visit, and don't find what you're looking for, just ask and they'll do their best to make sure you get it. I always recommend a visit to Hops for tourists and locals alike.