Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

Inspecting Carol
Fountain Hills Theater
Review by Gil Benbrook | Season Schedule

Also see Gil's reviews of A Christmas Carol and Agnes of God


Diane Senffner, Henry Male, Janine Smith, and
Leslie Haddad

Photo by Larry Moyse
There are most likely hundreds, if not thousands, of productions of A Christmas Carol running in cities across the country this month. In 1991, the Seattle Repertory Theatre and their Artistic Director Daniel Sullivan created a humorous spoof of this holiday classic with Inspecting Carol. Fountain Hills Theater's production features a talented cast who throw themselves into the hijinks and tomfoolery of the zany plot, though the play itself is only mildly amusing.

The plot focuses on a theatre company that is facing financial issues. Their subscription renewals are only at 50 percent, and their $30,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts is in jeopardy. The ragtag group of actors is in chaos upon learning of the company's financial woes, and when they discover that the NEA is sending a government employee to inspect their work to determine if they will receive the funds or not, it only increases the tension. When an amateur actor named Wayne, who is just looking for an audition with the company, is mistaken for the government inspector it ratchets up the hijinks with the company members falling over themselves to impress Wayne in the hopes of securing the NEA grant.

With several repetitive moments that aren't that funny, some jokes that don't pay off, and a few characters that are only two-dimensional, the inconsistent script leaves a bit to be desired. The ending is also completely predictable. Fortunately, director Peter Hill does a fairly good job with a cast who do a good job in bringing some life to the lifeless script. The fact that most of the cast also play the same roles their characters play in Fountain Hills' production of A Christmas Carol, which runs in repertory with Inspector Carol, adds an added bit of lunacy.

Janine Smith does well as Zorah, the head of the theatre company who is trying her best to hold things together. Hill is great as Larry, the egotistical actor who plays Scrooge and believes the show needs modern updates (the previous year, Larry recited his lines in Spanish to try to make the show more contemporary). Leslie Haddad is a hoot as the feisty stage manager MJ and, when it's decided to drop the British accents from the show, Diane Senffner's comic timing and the changing American accents she uses are hilarious, in her portrayal of the British actress who also serves as the show within the show's dialect coach. Michael Paul Wallot, Alex Gonzalez, and Henry Male are all good as three actors in the cast who all have a wide range of issues. As Kevin, the company's stressed out business manager, Clifford Alfrey is hilarious. Nick Buchanan shows how Wayne, the amateur actor who is mistaken for the NEA inspector, relishes the turn of events when he is now in charge. Ollie Clarke and Noel Irick provide some laughs in two smaller roles.

Inspecting Carol may not have the continual relevance of the classic story it spoofs, and the script isn't the greatest, but with a good cast and direction, Fountain Hills' production provides a decent amount of laughs.

Fountain Hills Theater's production of Inspecting Carol runs through December 23rd, 2017, at 11445 N. Saguaro Blvd. in Fountain Hills AZ. Information on tickets can be found at www.fhtaz.org or by calling 480-837-9661.

Director/Set and Light Design: Peter J. Hill
Costumer: Carrie Grief
Stage Manager: Alex Gonzalez
Hair and Make-up: Patsy Johnson and MaryBeth Ingram
Projection Design: Todd Carrie and Ross Collins
Properties: Bob and Alisa Feugate

Cast: (in order of appearance)
MJ: Leslie Haddad
Wayne: Nick Buchanan
Zorah: Janine Smith
Luther: Ollie Clarke
Dorothy: Diane Senffner
Sydney: Henry Male
Phil: Michael Paul Wallot
Walter: Alex Gonzalez
Kevin: Clifford Alfrey
Larry: Peter Hill
The Inspector: Noel Irick


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