The Hipmas Carol | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Hipmas Carol


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The Hipmas Carol, Head Cheese-Fat Boss Productions, at Frankie J's MethaDome Theatre. At first glance the title might suggest a rap retread or goof on a Christmas classic. But there's nothing irreverent about this production: from the overture--a striking bluesy version of "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear," sung by accompanist Robert J. Rial--to the famous last words, every line resonates with sincerity and warmth.

The hipness that duo Pat Zelinski and Tyler Bohne bring to Dickens's tale is rhyming-jive narration in the style of Lord Buckley, a midcentury cult figure who rolled vaudevillian, beatnik, and theatrical influences into one cohesive storytelling idiom. The genesis of Buckley's mythic persona is a fascinating story in itself; in the right hands his approach is a remarkably useful tool, perfect for punching up any overfamiliar parable. Buckley himself created a fair adaptation, Scrooge, but Zelinski and Bohne have topped it with a whip-smart text all their own.

Just condensing the story into a coherent hour or so that never feels rushed is quite a trick; selling the work's joys and terrors with equal conviction is another. The Hipness Carol triumphs on both scores. And as performers, Zelinski and Bohne cheerfully juggle a thick catalog of accents, characterizations, and jokey asides, perfectly set to Rial's every strum. But the key is the passionate source, which remains a marvelous story--something these adapters have clearly not forgotten, and which even the most cynical humbug might here be moved to remember.

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