Moulin Scrooge | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Moulin Scrooge

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Moulin Scrooge, Baby Wants Candy, ImprovOlympic. Over the past eight years Baby Wants Candy has performed more than 700 musicals, each one improvised on the spot from a single audience suggestion. And the Baby Wants Candy performances I've seen have met all the criteria for big-ticket musical theater, lacking only a tightened score and an ounce more critical exposition.

For its first scripted effort--a satire of the florid Baz Luhrmann film and beloved Dickens Christmas tale--the company used the raw material of a performance at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last summer. Two competing story lines emerge: struggling writer Bob Cratchit (Hans Holsen) falls hopelessly in love with sickly courtesan Satine (Rebecca Allen), while a series of ghosts visits Parisian nightclub operator Scrooge (a comically aloof Paul Grondy), showing him the error of his miserly ways.

The score--by Peter Gwinn and musical director Stephanie McCullough--cleverly lampoons Moulin Rouge's pop-music pastiche, with sly nods to Rent and Cabaret; the best bits keep an ironic eye trained on the sources. Unfortunately Moulin Scrooge loses its tight focus after intermission, but the performances remain indelible: Debra Downing provides a jolt during the second half as orphaned would-be dancer Tiny Kim, while Gwinn--with little shoes affixed to his knees--steals the show as the vertically challenged narrator, Toulouse-Lautrec.

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