Los Angeles now has its own holiday play tradition with this 5th run of Bill Robens' musical A Mulholland Christmas Carol. The play is at A Sacred Fool theater, 660 No. Heliotrope, for a pre-Christmas run and is presented by two fine small theaters--Sacred Fools and Theater of Note. The play, the best written about Los Angeles since Luis Valdez's Zoot Suit, shows the choice between greed or generosity and is particularly appropriate for the 2008 holiday season in the new recession.
Robens rewrites Dickens class tale "A Christmas Carol" about greed, poverty, and justice making Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean spirited wealthy man, into William Mulholland, the man who built Los Angeles Department of Water and Power at the beginning of the 20th century. A small band with violin, keyboards, guitar, bass, and drummer played the score while the excellent cast sings the wonderful musical numbers. The show also has fine choreography including the Owens Valley farmers dancing traditional country dances while they sing "Our Owens Valley Song," a song of praise to rural California.
The story begins the day before Christmas when Mulholland at his DWP office won't give the drought-struck Owens Valley farmers any water and threatens to lay off his clerk Van Norman. That night Mulholland is visited by four ghosts. The first is Fred Eaton, ex-mayor of Los Angeles who helped Mulholland steal Owens Valley water, now a ghost in chains. The next ghost is explorer John Wesley Powell as Ghost of Christmas past who shows Mulholland scenes of his youth when he first came to Los Angeles as a poor idealistic young man who sings "Los Angeles River," a lovely song to L.A.'s very own river.
The play delightfully satirizes water politics and corruption in the song "Land Grab" with Harrison Gray Otis, builder of the Los Angeles Times newspaper; Moses Sherman, developer of the city's first electric car system; and rest of the cast singing and dancing out how Los Angeles got all of Owen's Valley Water leading to a twenty years water war.
The next Ghost of Christmas present is Teddy Roosevelt who along with Mulholland sing Roosevelt's mantra "Bully" about forging ahead to get what you want before the Ghost shows Mulholland the suffering of Owens Valley farmers in the drought-stricken region as well as the poor Christmas of his clerk Van Norman and his family.
The Ghost of Christmas Future, a black robbed figure, points out to old Mulholland two alternative futures. He can continue to build the Saint Francis Dam which will then burst--it really did spectacularly burst onstage--to drown hundreds or he can stop building the dam and share his water with the Owens Valley farmers and his wealth with his clerk Van Norman and his family helping them have a better Christmas. The alternative futures in December, 2008, are California alternative futures.
So rush to this show if you want to have a real Los Angeles holiday play. Also, hopefully the play will be videotaped as well as a recording made of the score and songs. The play is the most wonderful way to teach history, so a videotape as well as CD should be in Los Angeles' libraries as well as its schools..
Sacred Fools Theater Company
660 No. Heliotrope, Los Angeles Ca 90004