Humbug by the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn, PA
December 10, 2019
Review submitted by Aiden Kaliner of Harriton High School
As soft Christmas carols rang throughout the theater, Academy of The New Church’s production of Humbug was a jolly, festive, and hauntingly funny retelling of a classic story.
A contemporary twist to the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, John Wooten focuses his rendition of the story on female empowerment in the workplace. Humbug follows Eleanor Scrooge, the powerful and bitter businesswoman, on her journey to become a woman with a heart of gold. On Christmas Eve, her least favorite holiday, she is visited by her three “advisors”. Christmas Past, Present, and Future help her to realize life is more than chasing after riches and instead focusing on the people she genuinely loves.
The production had just the right amount of holiday flare. The Carolers provided the perfect atmosphere in the theater from the start of the show. Meanwhile, Maggie Stine and Tara Pitcairn (The Homeless Helpers) had a brilliant and enjoyable performance together.
Julie Daum as Eleanor Scrooge comically played the cold-hearted and miserable “queen of Wall Street.” Her portrayal of the dynamic businesswoman was key to relaying the central message of the play. Her character’s transformation from being a selfish, reserved, miser to the gracious and loving boss was an integral part of her performance.
Contrasting Daum’s Scrooge, Aurelle Odhner portrayed the hilarious secretary Bobbie Cratchit. Odhner’s charismatic performance and skilled comedic timing were unmatched, especially at the beginning of the show. In addition, Levon King and Ainsley Odhner, Christmas Past and Present, had memorable moments as well. Both embodied unique characterization with their physicality and strong acting abilities.
Many of the technical aspects of Humbug were extremely challenging. The professional set, built by the ANC Stage Craft Class was very effective in filling the stage. The use of secret doorways added a surprise factor to the production. Similarly, the lighting was a highlight of the show. The ANC Lighting Team’s usage of colors and complicated designs vividly brought the apartment building and dream sequences to life.
The true meaning of Christmas is more than just receiving gifts, but remembering to be compassionate, generous, and, of course, joyful. The Academy of The New Church kicked off the holidays with an important message for audiences to remember during this year’s season.
Review submitted by Sophia Borgesi of Haverford High School
“I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach.” This celebrated quote delivered by Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol, became the finale of Academy of the New Church’s production of Humbug.
Humbug, written by John Wooten, takes the known and loved plot of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and places it into the 21st century. When the stubborn boss, Eleanor Scrooge, is far from generous in helping out her employees. Spirits of her past, present, and future send her into a rude awakening.
There is only one name that comes to mind when discussing the “leads” or principle players in this play. Eleanor Scrooge, played by Julie Daum, phenomenally portrayed the spirit of the Grinch in a modern-day business woman’s body. With her fiery spirit and stringent comebacks, the audience became engulfed in the history of her character, ultimately leading her to overcome her former menacing persona.
To remedy the negativity spread by Scrooge, the upbeat and optimistic secretary, Bobbie Cratchit, played by Aurelle Odhner, was able to bring comedic relief at difficult points in the plot. Odhner’s enthusiastic attitude made it impossible for the audience not to love her “I’ll get here early on Friday” outlook.
The technical elements of this play were for the most part flawless. The set stepped the audience into a high-tension business office and the lighting created smooth scene transitions and emphasized key points of the plot. Even considering the absence of body microphones, the actors were easily picked up by the hanging microphones, thanks to ANC’s sound crew headed by Levi McFall and Declan Williams.
Humbug at Academy of the New Church was a riotous yet authentic experience for both the participants and viewers of all ages.