Review: “A Napa Valley Christmas Carol” in Napa

As TV regularly demonstrates, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol can be adapted into just about any scenario. For theatre, just take the plot points and characters, plop them into a modern-day situation and locale, add some songs and – voila! – instant Christmas show!

It’s a little more complicated than that, but that’s basically what Lucky Penny Productions’ Barry Martin and Rob Broadhurst have done with A Napa Valley Christmas Carol, running now in Napa through Dec. 19.

Skinflint winery owner Alexander Scroo…, er, Yuge (Tim Setzer) works his nephew Joe Patchett (Matt Davis) and marketing staff (Dennis O’Brien, Daniela Innocenti Beem) mercilessly on Christmas Eve. They have to come up with ten new wine labels before Joe can head home to his practical wife (Kirstin Pieschke), angst-ridden teen Goldie (Cecilia Brenner) and cute but sickly child Frankie (Dakota Dwyer). After they come up with a few ridiculous ideas, they all call it a day and head for a Christmas Eve gathering at the Patchett home. 

Yuge arrives at the office to discover their absence and is soon swimming in a bottle of whiskey.  Faster than you can say “Jacob Marley”, Yuge is visited by the spirit of his ex-wife (Karen Pinomaki) and told to expect some visitors. I should note that it’s just the spirit of his ex, not her ghost as she’s not dead.

The Ghost of Christmas Past (O’Brien) arrives in the person of a grunge band refugee, Christmas Present (Innocenti Beem) shows up to belt a few tunes, and Christmas Future (Brenner) appears in the person of a mouthy teen to explain how there is no future because Yuge and his generation have ruined everything. Faster than you can say “Bah, humbug!”, Yuge sees the error of his ways and Frankie is off to see a specialist at Stanford. God bless us, everyone.

The cast of “A Napa Valley Christmas Carol”

Thematically and tonally, Martin’s script is kind of all over the place. It lurches from serious family drama to silly comedy to Christmas concert. Traditional, religious Christmas songs like “O Holy Night” are mixed in amongst Broadhurst’s amusingly irreverent originals like “Schlock” and the toe tapping, uplifting, soon-to-be-Christmas-classic “Death Comes for Us All”. Credit Broadhurst for taking on the annual “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie?” debate with “The Movies That Make It Christmas”. (It isn’t.)

Local and topical references brought chuckles from the audience and the talented cast sells the show. There’s a lot to like here, but it’s the theatrical equivalent of a fruitcake – a confection with bits and pieces of things that are sweet, gooey, nutty, and best soaked in spirits.

If ya like fruitcake…

‘A Napa Valley Christmas Carol’ runs through Dec. 19 at the Lucky Penny Community Arts Center. 1758 Industrial Way, Napa. Thurs-Sat, 7pm; Sun, 2pm. $25–$42. 707.266.6305. luckypennynapa.com

Proof of vaccination and masking required to attend.

Photos by Barry Martin

This review originally published in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun.

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