REVIEW: "Estella Scrooge, A Christmas Carol With a Twist"—Streaming Musicals

Updated: Dec 18, 2020

A Ground-Breaking New Approach to Theatre!

In partnership with Streaming Musicals, Michael Jackowitz of Witzend Productions, Michael Alden Productions and David Bryant Productions presents a new digital musical this week, “Estrella Scrooge, A Christmas Carol with a Twist,” starring Betsy Wolfe (“Waitress”) in the title role and Clifton Duncan (“The Play That Goes Wrong”) as childhood sweetheart Philip “Pip” Nickleby.

Directed by John Caird, “Estella Scrooge…” took to the stage in an unprecedented collaboration of film and theatre to bring a new Christmas classic back to life—but from a whole new perspective. It’s called a Soundstage Musical, a hybrid between a film and a stage musical. The show is staged in a theatre or on a soundstage but is shot like a film, with 3 cameras and no audience. The actors sing live but most of the orchestra and underscore are filled in later.

In this case, the “Estella Scrooge” project was the first fully-realized musical to be digitally captured live entirely during the pandemic using unique, cutting-edge green screen technology, filming each actor’s performance separately, using hundreds of images, animations, intricate story-boarding, innovative workarounds and virtual sets, and bringing this dazzling cinematic musical theatre adventure magically to life just in time for Christmas, all the while under expressly strict Covid guidelines—One Day at a time, One Scene at a time, and One Actor at a time.

This Dickensian musical extravaganza is, in fact, a modern retelling of the Charles Dickens novel, “A Christmas Carol,” and wittily incorporates additional characters and plot lines from other great Dickens’ novels, such as “Great Expectations,” “Little Dorritt,” “Bleak House,” and “David Copperfield,” to name a few. And all have a reference to some degree in “Estella Scrooge.” Lauren Patten, for example, portrays a pickpocket named Dawkins, who represents the Artful Dodger, a pickpocket in “Oliver Twist.” Tom Nelis as the bellhop Dedlock (a character from the novel “Bleak House”) even gives Estella a Christmas present of a Dodgers baseball cap.

With book by John Caird (“Les Misérables,” also playing Nicholas Nickelby) and Tony winner Paul Gordon (“Jane Eyre,” “Pride and Prejudice,” “Daddy Long Legs”), music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, and story by Paul Gordon, John Caird and Sam Caird, “Estella Scrooge” tells the story of a young, apathetic, Wall Street tycoon with a penchant for foreclosing properties, and who just might have a thing or two to learn about the Christmas spirit.

It seems a hotelkeeper in her hometown of Pickwick, Ohio has defaulted on his mortgage loan and subject to foreclosure. And Estella, always the opportunist, fancies the idea of doing the deed personally, so to speak. She wants to evict all the residents, raze the building and replace it with a mall. But upon arriving at Harthouse on Christmas Eve, Estella discovers that the defaulting party is none other than her teenage heartthrob, “Pip” Nickelby.

Always the humanitarian, Pip has generously transformed the property into a harborage for the sick, dispossessed, and homeless. And, as luck would have it, a freak snowstorm blows in and forces Estella to take refuge in the small town. That night, as it had happened to her great grandfather Ebenezer long ago, she too is haunted by three visitations of her past, present and future – all of whom aren’t simply ghosts anymore, but double as characters from other Dickens’ stories.