By Lynn Venhaus

Even the most mean-spirited holiday-hater won’t be muttering “Bah! Humbug” after sampling the jolly high-octane hip-hop musical remix of Charles Dickens’ classic because “Q Brothers Christmas Carol” will make them laugh instead.

This unique 80-minute variation makes it easy to be swept up in the merriment, a welcome antidote to the ongoing misery in a turbulent world.

With the recognizable imprimatur of the incredibly talented Q Brothers Collective, those unconventional creatives from the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, this joyous boogie beat mashes reggae, rap, and epic rock ballads together.

Dickens’ novella was published in 1843 and there have been numerous interpretations in the 180 years since, including Muppets and Disney movies, a rom com with Matthew McConaughey, and musical comedy with Will Ferrell and Ryan Reynolds, not to mention TV shows and specials, and countless stage versions.

This modern madcap romp is a special presentation by the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival in a festively decorated nook of the National Blues Museum downtown. Performances take place from Wednesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m. too, from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.

Written and directed by GQ, JQ, Jax and Pos of the Q Brothers Collective, they proclaim they make art that rhymes, and they are not slackers in that department, following through with impressively snappy lyrics. Not a ninny-muggins among them.

They bring the same level of rat-a-tat-tat quick-change artistry that characterized their two-hander “Dress the Part” here in the Grove in early 2020. That was locally produced by the Shakespeare fest folks and won several St. Louis Theater Circle Awards when we resumed honoring regional theater post-pandemic in 2022.

If you attended that show, then you know you are in for a special treat.

This don’t-miss variation was developed with Rick Boyton and the music composition is by JQ. It’s such a spirited blend of dance, dubstep, and DJ-spun beats that it has become a holiday tradition on Chicago’s Navy Pier.

Photo by Phillip Hamer.

Spreading goodwill with the rhythms and rhymes, the cast includes Victor Musoni as Jacob Marley, Lil Tim and others; Maya Vinice Prentiss as Bob Cratchit, Ghosts of Past and Present, and others; and Mo Shipley as Oliver, Fred, and others.

Garrett Young, memorable in the aforementioned “Dress the Part,” feigns crotchety as a scowling Scrooge (who can remarkably bust a move). The fleet-footed quartet seem to be in constant motion and grooves in sync to Steph Paul’s kinetic choreography. Perhaps you recall her outstanding designed movements in “The Royale” at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis in 2017. Mel Bady keeps the jingle jangling as DJ Stank.

The performers are all superb entertainers, with crisp comic timing and engaging personalities. As nimble as a skilled improvisational troupe, you’ll marvel at their energy.

The story follows the familiar tropes of Dickens’ story about a horribly selfish, mean jerk who is redeemed after visits from four ghosts enlighten him on the error of his ways. This script leans into the humor and the heart to connect with an eager-for-adventure crowd.

A delightful surprise is that this supple presentation includes many references to contemporary Christmas movies, songs, and pop culture shorthand. They might not pull out a Red Ryder BB gun, but someone’s tongue is going to wind up on a frozen pole.

The sparkly scenic design by William Attaway is evocative of the Dickensian settings, enhanced by lighting designer Jesse Klug’s moody illumination. Costume designer Erika McClellan, a St. Louis native, has fashioned outfits more street savvy than Victorian era. And Stephen Ptacek’s expert sound design keeps the flow percolating.

Stage Manager Kathryn Ballard, who worked on “Dress the Part,” and assistant Patrick Siler are veterans who know how to keep things fluid, and there isn’t a minute wasted, no draggy middle whatsoever. The show runs without an intermission.

The engaging troupe exudes warmth and a playful attitude. However, if you’re seeking an old-fashioned family-friendly cup of cozy Hallmark comfort, this show is not that. Nor will any phrase be needlepointed onto a throw pillow. The material includes mature themes and adult language, so it’s best enjoyed by ages 12 and up.

For more information, tips on parking and what seasonal cocktails are available at the pop-up bar Club Fezzy:

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