FAIRFIELD—If British novelist Charles Dickens were alive today and able to see what Invision It Productions and Bliss Dance Company did to his 1843 story “A Christmas Carol” he would roll over in his grave.
Not in the bad way, he would just roll over to give himself more room to bust a move to the beat.
“A Hip Hop Christmas Carol” written and produced by the über talented team of David Rodgers Jr. and Fae Salfiti was a powerful, funny, and ultimately poignant slice of local theater. The familiar story of how Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed from cantankerous to caring after visits from three ghosts has been told in many different ways but never quite like this.
The play began with about 30 young people onstage talking amongst themselves when a young man with a boom box enters and starts playing the seminal 1979 rap song “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. A fierce and fun dance battle then erupts with amazing dancer after amazing dancer trying to one up someone they personally challenge.
Local singer/dancer/actor Ruben Oriol-Rivera plays Skrooge and as his nephew Fred (Adam Wayne Gistarb) described him he was “greedy and shady.” Indeed he owns a record company called So So Shady Records. The gold records and album covers by Ice Cube, India Arie in Skrooge’s office were a nice touch.
A particularly funny scene was when Oriol-Rivera was getting into his jammies and was jamming to Right Said Fred’s 1991 hit “I’m Too Sexy” mugging at himself in the mirror. Skrooge’s long dead business associate Marley (Jaron Carolina) visits and he looked a whole lot like murdered rapper Tupac Shakur from the trademark bandana tied in the front to the “THUG LIFE” tattoo on his stomach. He was ushered onstage to Pac’s “California Love.”
After issuing his dire warning of the spectral visitations Skrooge would encounter and then exiting, suddenly ghouls emerged from backstage, from behind curtains, and from behind the audience, one actually startling me. They then exploded onto the stage and did a spot-on run-through of the iconic dance moves to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
The Ghost of Christmas Past was none other than local gymnast and performing superstar Gabi Crump who was dressed as the late King of Pop circa 1983 complete with the requisite hat and bejeweled single glove. Crump's character showed Skrooge just what a punk he had been in the past before turning it over to the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Where to start with the character played by Angeline “Cuba” Johnson Holman? Perhaps with her outfit—pink tights covered with tight blue jean shorts, leather boots and a gold belt. She had a hot pink purse which seemingly had nothing but food in it because she was grubbin’ the whole time she was on stage.
She led a smaller troupe of female dancers in a sizzling dance routine to Beyonce’s 2008 hit Single Ladies (Put a Ring On it). The young ladies’ outfits featured fishnet, boas, and splashes of color all of which were in frenetic motion punctuated with sass and attitude.
The Ghost of Christmas Present showed Skrooge how his spendthrift ways had affected his worker Cratchitt (Darrin Johnson) and his young crippled son Tiny Tim (double cast as Jordan Jackson and Jamil Madison).
Tia Madison was over-the-top great as the Ghost of Christmas Future and when she showed Skrooge his grave and launched into an impassioned version of “Amazing Grace” it nearly brought the house down.
The show closed with curtain calls to RUN DMC’s 1987 fun holiday rap hit “Christmas in Hollis.”
Everything in the show was right and worked together for a completely entertaining and fresh theatrical adventure. The dialogue was funny and real and while plenty of slang was used, context is provided so there’s no need to have to consult urbandictionary.com later. The choreography was awesome and what really came across was that the dancers were having fun which made it fun for the audience as well.
The theme of caring for the less fortunate is not only present in the play, but is taken to heart by writer David Rodgers Jr. He set a goal of raising $240 to donate to Operation Smile, a charity with a mobilized force of medical professionals who perform surgery on children born with facial deformities. Audience members can donate after the show, online at operationsmile.org or by calling 1-800-786-0783.
This funky fresh twist on a classic is only here for this weekend so you need to see it tonight!
three stars out of four
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at firstname.lastname@example.org
INvision It Productions and Bliss Dance Company
“A HIP HOP CHRISTMAS CAROL”
Written by David Rodgers Jr and Fae Salfiti
Directed by David Rodgers Jr
Choreographed by Fae Salfiti
Dec 10 at 7:30pm
Dec 11 at 2pm and 7:30pm
Dec 12 at 2pm and 7pm
FOR TICKET RESERVATIONS CALL 707 330-8965 or email email@example.com.
CASH ONLY FOR TICKET SALES
MISSOURI STREET THEATRE
1125 MISSOURI STREET
FAIRFIELD, CA 94533