Stars of wonder

If the fruitcake, roasted almonds and sugar-coated goodies of the season have already begun to turn your stomach, there just might be a very different kind of holiday recipe that is bound to bring out the blithe spirit in you.

Take one part Barry Williams, aka Greg Brady of The Brady Bunch; add Jackee Harry, the curvy bombshell who played the sassy Sandra in 227; throw in a dash of Jeff Conaway (best known as Kenickie from Grease); add a helping of Malik Yoba of Fox’s Arrested Development; mix in 1970s R&B singing sensation Angela Bofill, and you’ve got yourself one truly boffo Christmas happening.

This unlikely hodgepodge of actors is all part of the cast of the Music Hall’s urban musical update of the 1843 original, A Christmas Carol, playing Dec. 7-12. And let’s face it, how can you resist the sheer fun of America’s favorite D-listers doing Dickens?

As one of the most popular holiday tales ever told, A Christmas Carol has been remade and reincarnated in dozens of forms, ranging from cartoons such as Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol to feature films like the holiday jewel Scrooged; there was even a special episode of Sanford and Son that followed the old-timey storyline. This year, NBC released a musical version starring Kelsey Grammer in the lead role.

But even though it’s been done time and time again — filmed for TV and the silver screen at least 40 times going back to 1908 — critics insist that this production is as fun as ever.

Bofill, who plays the part of the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Music Hall production, took a moment to talk with Metro Times about her role. As it turns out, joining the cast of A Christmas Carol has been somewhat of a return to her roots.

“Originally, I majored in theater at the University of Hartford and then I transferred to the Manhattan School of Music and got my degree in opera. I love theater, I love stage. Obviously, I’ve been singing for years on stage with my own music,” Bofill says.

The vocalist, whose biggest hit was the jazz-tinged, adult contemporary ballad “I Try,” has performed her songs at live concerts for years, but admits that she has only recently developed an interest in returning to the stage.

“It was nothing I planned; my mother actually had this premonition, a dream. She said, ‘I saw you in this play.’ It was about three months later I got the call to do my first gospel play, God Don’t Like Ugly.”

“I like the ensemble feeling,” Bofill adds. “I like that every day you can constantly be improving and fine-tuning and fine-tuning and fine-tuning.”

And with a cast like this, there is no doubt much room for fun: The seasoned veterans have many years of experience under their belts.

Bofill, who is of Cuban and Puerto Rican descent, says she particularly appreciates the opportunity to tour on stage during the holiday season.

“I love Christmas. We have a whole Latin tradition for the holidays. I remember one time my dad dressed up like Santa Claus. He had this thick Cuban accent, ‘Ho! Ho! Ho! Mer-ree Cree-mas!’”

In other words, some of the most celebrated holiday traditions can pop up where you’d last expect.


Tuesday, Dec. 2, through Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Music Hall Center forthe Performing Arts, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-963-7622.

Eddie B. Allen Jr. is a freelance writer. Send comments to [email protected]
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