I have a confession, I try to avoid theater this time of year because I don’t like the treacly sentimentality and predictability of most holiday plays. (It’s a good season to see movies instead because a lot of good art-house and indie films are released at yearend.) But if you’re looking for a live holiday show sans syrup, get over to Chicago Shakespeare to see A Q Brothers Christmas Carol. Staged by the Q Brothers Collective, four performers and a DJ light up the stage and treat your ears with the story of Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Lil’ Tim retold in hip-hop beats and contemporary rap lyrics.
The elements of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic are all there, sometimes in surprising form. There’s a Rastafarian Jacob Marley, for instance, played by JQ. And two Jewish holiday celebrants appear to explain another holiday to the miserly Scrooge. JQ and Jax (Jackson Doran), in white kippahs, decide at one point they will just “get some Chinese food and go see a movie.” There’s a funny bit about what color Jesus was too—brown or black? And several portmanteau jokes.
The 90-minute show flies by with Scrooge’s dreams of Christmases past, present and future intruding on his sleep nestled into his moneybag pillow. The scenes in Scrooge’s office introduce Bob Cratchit (Postell Pringle or Pos) and we also meet Lil’ Tim (JQ, lively on crutches). Jax does extra duty as a motherly Mama Cratchit. At the end of course, Scrooge wakes up, realizes he’s alive, gives Bob Cratchit a raise and dances to a dubstep.
DJ Clayton Stamper starts the show off and keeps the beat going throughout in his above-the-stage sound booth. JQ is the composer with sound design by Christopher LaPorte. The show was written by the Q Brothers Collective (JQ, GQ, Jax and Pos) and developed with Rick Boynton. Direction is by GQ and JQ with choreography by Anacron. Lighting is by Jesse Klug.
All this is accomplished by the four superb performers, with three of the four playing many roles. Only GQ as Scrooge plays one role throughout. Quick changes in wigs, props and accessories are handled on stage. Scott Davis is responsible for scenic and costume design with Melissa Veal handling the all-important wigs and makeup.
A Q Brothers Christmas Carol continues through December 23 in the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Tickets are $32-$56 for shows Tuesday-Sunday with some Monday performances, including tonight December 9. Seating options include a cabaret table section in front of the stage.