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Classic cranked to 11

The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge reworks A Christmas Carol with doses of Dylan, Elvis, Holly and (Bob) Marley

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I wish I could have enjoyed more of Theatre Northwest’s The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge.  It would have been nice. But every time something funny happened, and even after most lines that weren’t that funny, the three people sitting behind me — all three of them, in unison — let out this ear-piercing cackle that left me dreading the next joke, or non-joke, or really anything that came out of an actor’s mouth.

There’s this moment, though, shortly before the closing numbers, that the gaggle of cacklers were thankfully able to avoid ruining. It is a moment familiar to anyone who has seen or read any rendition of A Christmas Carol — I’m partial to the one with Muppets in it, myself — when our beleaguered Scrooge learns that this poor, un-mourned carcass a few years in her future is none but herself.

If the scrawling I give back to you to insert in the theater review doesn't make sense, here's what it's supposed to be:

Yes, The Salvation of Iggy features a female Scrooge, one of many subtle, yet enjoyable, rock n' roll differences of Theater Northwest's production.

This is the moment that makes the show. The spirit of Christmas yet to come, an enigmatic, skeletal, nigh-incomprehensible specter of death — embodied in Iggy Scrooge as Bob Dylan — leads the band in a keening portent of Scrooge’s doom. The ghost of Tiny Tina emerges from her casket and is carried off in Dylan’s lanky arms. Scrooge, reeling from the barrage of death, is surrounded by a ghastly horde of black clad cyphers blinding her with flashlights until she collapses in despair.

The show before and after this point is lighthearted and silly nearly the whole way through. The spirits are all a bit too silly to fear — Ryan Coleman reprising the role of Buddy Holly that won him sold-out crowds at Tacoma Little Theatre in June, complete with post-plane crash facial scarring; musical director and co-writer Edd Key as a food-obsessed, later-life Elvis; and Johnnie Pratt as (Bob) Marley, wrapped in the chains he forged in life dangling with LP sleeves, and somehow sounding much more Irish than Jamaican.

Certainly there are some spikes of emotion earlier, as Iggy witnesses the innocence fading away from her childhood form. But these moments are cut with absurdist humor, and their poignancy isn’t really felt until later — amplified, whether deliberately or not, by the decision to cast the same actress as both young Scrooge and the doomed Tiny Tina.

Don’t let my ramblings here fool you. Iggy Scrooge really is a light, bouncing, musical show. It isn’t all gloom and doom. Jayne Muirhead’s Iggy is crass, uncaring and over the top — exactly what you expect out of a 1985 rock star.

The show is also not short its share of standout musicians. Songwriter Key makes his mark best as blind bluesman Fezziwig. Muirhead and Young Scrooge actress Krista Curry possess a pair of unusually well-matched, piercing melodic voices. And Coleman supplements his Buddy as the house band bass player.

But it’s that moment of hopeless darkness that drives any version of this story, that ties the comedy together and provides its meaning and depth. It is a turning point in plot and character, and the Theatre Northwest production accomplishes it admirably.

It almost—almost—makes up for the total absence of any Muppets whatsoever.


[Broadway Center for the Performing Arts: Theater on the Square, The Salvation of Iggy Scrooge, through Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m. Fri. and Sat., 3 p.m. Sun., $39-$49, 915 Broadway, Tacoma, 253.591.5890]

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