By Ian Rigg
Yo this is the story all about how A Christmas Carol got flipped turned upside down,
So I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you all about this show at Chicago Shakespeare.
Q Brothers Christmas Carol is the ultimate theatrical treat for the holidays. A brilliant retelling of the most famous Christmas story ever told (well, second only to one about three Wise Men and a babe in a manger) the whip-smart Q Brothers subvert, elevate and obliterate M.C. Dickens with their awesome adaptation.
More than being merely insanely clever, their story evokes every iota of depth that Dickens’ did. Developed with Rick Boynton, this production will make audiences’ hearts grow three sizes.
What’s clear that not unlike the spirit of Christmas itself, the show is a seamlessly collaborative effort devoted to the joy and spreading of peace on the earth and goodwill to all.
Scenic & Costume Designer Scott Davis blends urban utility with whimsical cool factor. Along a skyline-shaped chain-link fence, all manner of scarves, hats, wigs, and more are hung like stockings with care: his wizardry was required, as all of the actors shift characters in a matter of seconds.
That’s all executed by choreographer Anacron, whose impeccable moves keep a cool and charismatic spirit flowing. Stephen Ptacek’s crisp sound design keeps the fresh sound poppin’.
All the while, the perfectly timed spectacle enters into a higher plane of spirituality through Jesse Klug’s sharp lighting design.
The Q Brothers Collective (GQ, JQ, Jax, and Pos) is made up of bonafide masterminds. Side-splitting wit and rhymes that have the old underground masters howling from beyond crackle throughout the one-act play that audiences won’t want to end.
However, the absolutely ingenious writing would be as dead as a doornail were it not for the incredibly talented cast giving it their all.
All four performers (all but one are members of the Collective) have phenomenal timing, energy and raw rap ability: the crafty wordplay and movement is both a marathon AND a sprint.
JQ (who also wrote all the music) is a genius. His roles as Marley (played like the Bob of “No Woman No Cry” fame), Belle, Present, and Lil’ Tim are to die for, each a force of nature in their own right. If you think his mad rapping skills are impressive, wait til you see the tricks he can do with a crutch.
The inimitable Jackson Doran (Jax) is a case-study in commitment. As Fred, Dick Wilkins, and Mama Cratchit, this hilarious actor is fully invested in every bit, and deserves every laugh coming his hard-working way.
The phenomenal Postell Pringle (Pos) is the cast’s Swiss Army knife. This well of talent excels as Bob Cratchit and many others, like a Ghost of Christmas Past styled in the vein of old-school rappers like Run DMC and Grandmaster Flash (can you say Grandmaster Flashback?). A hysterical sequence where he plays both Bob and Martha Cratchit without leaving the stage is worth the price of admission alone.
And John Hoogenakker is a revelation in his curmudgeonly, cantankerous, cackle-inducing turn as Scrooge. It’s an absolute joy to watch his transformation from misanthropic miser to the holly jolly soul buried deep within.
The Q Brothers Christmas Carol is an absolute-must, for kids from 1 to 92. It reminds all of us to remember, in the immortal words of the hottest rapper on one leg, Lil’ Tim:
“God bless us, errybody.”
Chicago Shakespeare Theatre presents “The Q Brothers Christmas Carol” through December 30 at The Yard Theatre on Navy Pier, Chicago. More information and tickets are available here.