Just when you think you’ve seen every take on the holidays, along comes AFT’s bizarre, very funny and sometimes touching riff on “A Christmas Carol.” Scott Bradley, the creator of the wonderfully inventive “Alien Queen” has borrowed from Charles Dickens with a hint of “It’s a Wonderful Life” to create this world premier holiday musical fantasy cabaret show, sure to delight Chicago’s LGBT and liberal audiences for years to come. Collaborating with brilliantly talented musical composer/lyricist Alan Schmuckler, Bradley’s Christmas comedy tells a light-hearted tale filled with wishes, witchcraft and whimsy, all set to Mr. Schmuckler’s infectious, toe tapping pop-rock score.
Conrad Ticklebottom (played by campy Scott Duff) is a famous creative corporate manager who’s simplified his monochromatic designs to square, block-like fashions. Conrad’s right-hand is Reggie, a nebbish little woman with her own secret dreams of multicolored, multi-shaped creations. When her boss no longer finds fulfillment in his bland entrepreneurship, Reggie pilfers a magic spell book that will enable him to satisfy his wishes for youth, wealth and beauty. But the sorcery backfires when Mystique, the Mistress of Magic (the stunning Sean Blake), arrives to retrieve her hoodoo handbook while teaching Conrad some important lessons, aided by Liza Minnelli Past (Liza Was) and Present (Liza Is). The result is a series of jokes and show stopping production numbers that provide the play’s charm.
The cast, under impresarios Scott Ferguson and Patrick Andrews’ high-pitched, energetic direction and choreography, is uniformly top-rate. Headed by Dana Tretta’s sweetly empathetic Reggie, the tone for the evening fluctuates between poignancy and high camp. Both Danielle Plisz and Bradley are pitch-perfect as Liza Was and Liza Is, backed by their scantily-clad, sequined backup dancers,. The result is a booze infused holiday morality tale, “with a Z.”