San Diego outdoors: Aida, animal tracks, rugby, SUP with dogs, 1800s Old Town, waterski and wakeboard
Indoors: WWI San Diego, complete history of theater, Christopher Plummer, pickles, Van Gogh-Gaughin, Martina McBride
11:50 a.m., June 28
Seventeen of the 20 Royal Music Hall Variety Players came down with food poisoning. So the three remaining members of the 19th Century troupe must tackle all the roles in their musical version of A Christmas Carol: the men cross-dressing, on occasion, and Vesta Virile, the famous male impersonator, essaying Scrooge. They'll face a tougher crowd than, say, at the Old Vic. In a music hall everyone was an on-the-spot critic, and usually ale-infested as well. Ricky Graham (book and lyrics) and Jefferson Turner's (music) bawdy homage to the trooper tradition demands precise, spontaneous timing and trained musical voices - for songs with a red-cheeked, pub-like swagger. In the wrong hands, things could go gravely askew. Diversionary Theatre's trio of performers, backed by a game Rick Shaffer on piano, blaze through the material as if to the manner born. There are slow spots, but overall it's a funny, entertaining piece. Kim Strassburger makes Scrooge both a meanie and an on-stage director who must keep the show going (Scrooge is so "tight-fisted, fortune tellers have to read his knuckles"). Eric Vest and Tony Houck handle 20-plus roles with aplomb. Vest emcees with many a groaner (his reactions funniest when a joke nose-dives). Houck sings with an impressively accurate soprano voice (even does coloratura). Scrooge in Rouge is also one of the year's most dazzling fashion shows. Jennifer Brawn Giddings's costumes (and Peter Herman's wigs) not only conjure the Victorian era with precision, many are cartoon-comical - a punch-line without a setup; and, they must be changeable in seconds. Great work!