Carmella is back and “A Christmas Carol,” will never be the same again. Frank O’Donnell’s Christmas Carmella 2022 keeps the audience happy by delivering laughs throughout, and cannoli at the intermission from the comfortable and viewer-friendly venue of the Academy Players of Rhode Island’s home in Providence.
Carmella Sr., Paula Faber, plays a typically strong Italo-American matriarch, delivering O’Donnell’s lines perfectly and in a way that Rhode Islanders get the inside joke, “they didn’t pony up, so they’ll just remain the deli in DePasquale Square.” Her retelling of A Christmas Carol, from memory and without the book, sets up the premise for the ensuing hilarity.
Many of the cast play multiple parts, including Christina Myers as Carmella Jr. and a host of hilarious flashback roles that almost always end up breaking character. Bobby Ricci also does a stellar job of playing the dual roles of Ant’ny and Scrugini, and getting a running Scrooge-specific gag going.
Of course, this story being translated into an immigrant’s tale based in North Providence, the set backdrop street sign was painted “Miserable Spring” and was populated by familiar businesses, and two closet-sized Dunkin Donuts, with the center door reserved for “Scrugini & Marli.” And what would a story about the area be without everyone using colorful terms like, “youse guys,” “googatz,” and even opening the show with a rousing rendition of the Twelve Days of Christmas but substituting Italian dishes, cooking utensils and other gags to get the crowd laughing.
The best part of this production is that there’s a lot of local comedic star power at work, with John Morris playing Bob Cracciatore, Ace Aceto and Roman Pierce both contributing their talents in various roles, and as Frank noted in one of his YouTube conversations, it is a very collaborative process, if something works, it makes it into the show. At some point someone references Bob’s son being “Tiny Tony,” which leads to an impression by Ace Aceto which is spot on. Last night’s cameo guest star was Kelly Bates, and the audience could tell she enjoyed herself and had a lot of fun with it. Future guest appearances include Mario Hilario, Mike Montecalvo, Barbara Morse, Barbi Jo DiMari, and the Cardi brothers, to name a few.
This is a family-friendly show that will see proceeds split between the venue and the Keri Anne O’Donnell Memorial Fund. To that end Cardi Furniture has donated a set piece again this year and raffle tickets are available in the lobby before the show and at intermission.
The show continues tonight (Dec. 3) at 7 pm, and tomorrow (Dec. 4) at 4 pm, and next weekend Friday and Saturday at 7 pm and Sunday at 4 pm at the James and Gloria Maron Cultural Arts Center, 180 Button Hole Drive in Providence. Tickets are $20-25 and you can find them, and venue info here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/a-christmas-carmella-tickets-444782736137