Tim and Scrooge go MAD

by Lenise Willis

Scott Stevens performs as Bob Cratchitt in Open Space Cafe Theatre’s production of Tim and Scrooge, which opens Thursday. (Photo submitted)

The story of A Christmas Carol is just as is about to turn 21. Taking the place of his well known and cherished as the fluttering friend Marley’s apparition, Scrooge comes of snowflakes and the smell of evergreens back to help Tim make some tough choices at Christmastime. But what happens after about his love life and career. “God bless us, everyone”? Picking up where For the first time ever, Tim and Scrooge Dickens left off is Nick Meglin, playwright will be performed in North Carolina, just its and former editor of MAD magazine, whose fourth production in 10 years. new musical sequel Tim and Scrooge delves After taking the recommendation from a deeper into the life of “Big” Tim. friend who was impressed with Open Space Ten years after Dickens’ famous Christ- Café Theatre, Meglin contacted Joe Nierle, mas dinner, Scrooge is dead and Tiny Tim owner and director, about performing his new musical on the small, charming stage.

“I think it’s a good fit for [Open Space],” Nierle said. “[Meglin] wanted to see how it would work in a more intimate setting since he had done a larger-stage production in Brooklyn.

Tim and Scrooge was part of NY Music Theatre Works’ new musicals five years ago and received a full production in Brooklyn by the Queens Theatre. “Everyone knows A Christmas Carol, so they have a point of reference for the story,” Nierle said, “and maybe if people are tired of A Christmas Carol, they’ll want to see what happens afterward. I liked the production and I liked the idea of doing a new show.”

Nierle said he loved the show so much that he replaced his originally schedule December show, Every Christmas Story Ever Told, with it for this season.

“I really liked the script because it’s written exactly like A Christmas Carol. It’s written as if Dickens himself wrote it,” said Nierle.

In fact, the style in which the musical is written is most notable. Meglin added that some reviewers believed his musical to be so much in Dickens’ likeness that they asked him where he found his unpublished manuscript for the sequel.

“I’m not a novelist, but even if I was I wouldn’t have the arrogance to think that I could do the sequel to Dickens and that I’m as good as he is—not quite,” Meglin laughed. “But at least the barrier is down between the novel and the musical. So, this is an adaptation of a novel that Dickens’ never wrote. I kept it in his language and sensibility and his sentiments totally.”

Meglin got the idea for the musical sequel from a 1950s black-and-white film of A Christmas Carol, which Meglin said was both impressive and influential.

“[The film was] able to illicit such great sentiments for this piece of work–more so than I think the book was able to do because of the close-ups,” Meglin said. “It was just so impressive that I was a little unsatisfied. Now that [Scrooge has] transformed, the movie ends. So that was the idea — just basically seeing where that great film would go.”

Meglin joined forces with composer and lyricist Neil Berg to write an original score for the musical.

“The lyrics are so related to the plot and characters, it’s not like let’s just stop and sing a song,” Nierle said. “The music kind of reminds me of Disney-show music. It’s a full, rich sound, very tuneful and very Broadway-like.”

Musical theatre is certainly a new voyage for Meglin, who has had a full career in journalism, from having a small stint as a war correspondent to being a writer, illustrator and eventual editor for MAD.

“[Musical theater] was always a love of mine,” Meglin said. “I did a lot of parody lyrics for MAD magazine, so I knew I could do parody lyrics. But I thought the only place left where songs still had meaning was musical theatre.”

“Growing up, I read MAD magazine all the time, not knowing who it was,” Nierle said. “But this show isn’t anything like MAD magazine. It’s got romance. It’s got humor. It’s got the whole real feel of Christmas. The whole family will leave just feeling warm and good about Christmas.”

wanna go?

Nick Meglin’s Tim and Scrooge plays at Open Space Café Theatre, 4609 W. Market St., Greensboro, Thursday through Dec. 18. Tickets are $20 for adults; $17 for students and seniors. For tickets or more information call 292-2285 or visit www.