Story by: Charles Dickens
Company: Denver Center for the Performing Arts
Venue: The Stage Theatre, 1101 13th Street, Denver, CO.
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes (includes 20 minute intermission)
Date of Performance: Friday, December 4, 2015.
Hereafter, I will always associate the name Philip Pleasants with Charles Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge. Pleasants has played Scrooge since 1978 (debuting in Alaska, no less), including nine times at the Denver Center. Not many of us would like to be remembered as Ebenezer. Even so, Pleasants has so fully embraced the role that it will always define him for over 235,000 fans who have seen his Scrooge on the Denver Center stage.
|Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge.|
Pleasants is a pleasure (pun intended) to watch; he brings out both the Scrooge who makes us cringe and the one who becomes a committed philanthropist. It’s no small task; the two sides of Scrooge are polar opposites. Mr. Pleasants may be moving on to other projects and other roles, but he will not be forgotten next year when Sam Gregory steps into his very big Dickensian shoes. As Gregory recently said, he’s following “the Peyton Manning of Scrooges.”
|Clanking his chain: Jeffrey Roark as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. Costume by Kevin Copenhaver|
Mr. Pleasants aside, though, I don’t want to leave an impression that the rest of the huge cast and crew are ordinary. They’re not. This is a high energy, polished and very professional production, from start to finish. Vicki Smith’s set design is beautiful and functional. Kevin Copenhaver’s costumes are period perfect for Dicken’s London, contrasting the wealthy with the poor in stark detail. Copenhaver’s outfits for the Ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come are outstanding, as is his outfit for Mrs. Fezziwig (Leslie O’Carroll). Sound Designer Craig Breitenbach and Lighting Designer Don Darnutzer combine in the second act for the most realistic thunderstorm you will ever see (and hear) on stage. Director Bruce K. Sevy has a huge cast, including a flock of kids, all coming and going on and offstage at a furious pace, never missing a mark.
James Michael Reilly plays Bob Cratchit to Pleasant’s Ebenezer Scrooge, and he is remarkable in the role. Pay particular attention during the “Ghost of Christmas Present” scene. Reilly gathers the Cratchit family around the kitchen table, and talks to them about what Christmas means to him. It’s Dicken’s words, but Reilly’s moment. He makes the most of it, breathing life into the story with a heartfelt, sincere delivery that nearly moved me to tears.
Jeffrey Roark roars as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, and his Copenhaver costume makes him as scary as a real ghost would be. Alan Dorsey (Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) is nearly as scary Roark. Young Ella Galaty (Fan, Scrooge’s young sister), is locked in as she sings a solo. I could go on. Everyone on the stage, in the orchestra pit, and backstage puts in a tour de force performance for A Christmas Carol.
I’ve put a few notes in a separate section below, outlining some reasons why A Christmas Carol is still relevant today. That’s a soap box section, and I put those notes there knowing there will be those who disagree with me. That’s fine. I’m separating my opinion from the all important facts about this DCPA holiday show.
The word that comes to mind is clockwork. Clockwork requires precision, timing, and perfection with every move. And that perfectly describes A Christmas Carol at the DCPA. This is is a classic story, brilliantly told by outstanding theater professionals. Take your family, take your friends, hey, even take your own personal Ebenezer Scrooge. It will improve your holiday season immensely.
|The cast of A Christmas Carol.|
Younger children may be scared of the ghosts. The ghost of Jacob Marley (Jeffrey Roark) and Christmas Yet To Come (Allen Dorsey) are both pretty creepy. “The Ghost of Christmas Past,” (Stephanie Cozart) by comparison, is angelic.
As always, I recommend parking at the DCPA garage both for convenience and price. It’s a $12 charge, but you’re right on the property, your car will be safe, and you don’t have to cruise the surrounding streets for other options (many of which will be more costly).
SOAP BOX NOTES:
What follows is mostly opinion, supported by a few facts. You don’t have to read, or agree with, anything below.
A Christmas Carol teaches us compassion and respect for people from all walks of life. That’s a message we still need today, >170 years after Dickens wrote it. Like Dickens’ London, we still have abundant poverty several generations later. More than 13% of Coloradans live in poverty. Worse, 15% of children in Colorado live in poverty. That’s actually somewhat better in the last few years, but still a significant problem.
As a nation, we have a huge and growing gap between the rich and the poor. Instead of generating upward mobility for all, the US has become more like Dickens’ 19th century London.
And it’s not just numbers. It’s attitudes about the poor, the disabled, and the otherwise needy. Hostility is not hard to find.
I was in a line at my local Costco last week; the line was both long and slow moving. The guy in front of me turned and said something to me: “this is ridiculous.” I agreed, and said they need to hire more people. His reply floored me: “They can’t. People don’t want a job because they’d have to give up their welfare benefits.” His contempt for the less fortunate was palpable. I didn’t get his name, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Ebenezer Scrooge.
Dickens got it right in A Christmas Carol, and we still need to hear his message. Things haven’t changed much. 1843 London is not Denver, but the differences, at least in terms of respect, compassion, and charity may not be as great as we would wish.
END OF SOAP BOX NOTES
This show closes on December 27, 2015.
PHOTO CREDITS: The DCPA Press and Adams Visual Communications.
Pre/Post Show Dining Suggestion
I had gotten some Morton’s Steakhouse gift cards for Father’s Day, so we used them before the show. It’s at 1701 Wynkoop Street, so after you park at the Denver Center, walk the 2 blocks to the 16th Street Mall and take the free shuttle bus to Wynkoop Street. It’s about 2 blocks east of the bus stop. Allow at least 10 minutes for the walk/shuttle trip.
Morton’s is a high end steakhouse, with high end prices. Know that before you go, and plan on a minimum of $50/person. It’s an a la carte menu, so you buy your appetizers, salads, and entrees separately. It adds up quickly, since most of the entrees are north of $40.00. If you’d like to try Morton’s but not spend a fortune, try the Happy Hour menu (service in the bar only). It’s actually quite reasonable.
My experience before the show, indeed, for the 3-4 times I’ve been to Morton’s, was splendid. Impeccable service, steakhouse ambiance, and fantastic steaks. It’s one of those rare restaurants where you pay top dollar and leave thinking it’s worth every penny.
Director: Bruce K. Sevy
Assistant Director: Christine Rowan
Musical Director & Orchestrations: Gregg Coffin
Choreographer/Dance Captain: Christine Rowan
Set Designer: Vicki Smith
Costume Designer: Kevin Copenhaver
Sound Designer: Craig Breitenbach
Lighting Designer: Don Darnutzer
Stage Manager: Christopher C. Ewing
Assistant Stage Managers: Jonathan D. Allsup, Matthew Campbell
Children’s Supervisor: Lauren Lacasse
Voice & Dialect Coaching: Kathryn G. Maes, Ph.D
Ebenezer Scrooge: Philip Pleasants
Bob Cratchit: James Michael Reilly
Fred, Scrooge’s Newphew: M. Scott McLean
Subscription Gentlemen: Colin Alexander, Rodney Lizcano
A Beggar Child: Brody Lineaweaver
Tailor: Robert Andrew Koutras
Tailor’s Wife: Emma C. Martin
Ghost of Jacob Marley: Jeffrey Roark
Ghost of Christmas Past: Stephanie Cozart
Schoolmaster: Daniel Langhoff
School Boys: Edwin Harris, Ben W. Heil, Charlie Korman, Avi Levin, Brody Lineaweaver, Max Raabe, Nate Patrick Siebert, Owen Zitek
Their Parents: Colin Alexander, Leslie Alexander, Mehry Eslaminia, Shannan Steele, Jacke Williamson, Erin Willis
Ebenezer the Child: Charlie Korman
Fan, Scrooge’s Sister: Ella Galaty
Ebenezer the Young Man: M. Scott McLean
Dick Wilkins: Allen Dorsey
Fezziwig: Michael Fitzpatrick
Mrs. Fezziwig: Leslie O’Carroll
Fezziwig Daughters: Mehry Eslaminia, Kyra Lindsay, Emma C. Martin
Their Suitors: Benjamin Bonenfant, Daniel Langhoff, Robert Andrew Koutras
A Fiddler: James Michael Reilly
Belle: Courtney Capek
Belle’s Husband: Jake Williamson
Ghost of Christmas Present: Colin Alexander
Mrs. Cratchit: Leslie Alexander
Martha: Kyra Lindsay
Peter: Ben W. Heil
Belinda: Helen Reichert
Edward: Max Raabe
Tiny Tim: Augie Reichert
Fred’s Wife: Shannan Steele
Topper: Jeffrey Roark
The Wife’s Sister: Stephanie Cozart
Fred’s Party Guests: Leslie O’Carroll, Erin Willis, Daniel Langhoff, Benjamin Bonenfant
Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come: Allen Dorsey
Want: Olivia Sullivant
Ignorance: Owen Zitek
Old Joe: Rodney Lizcano
The Undertaker’s Man: Benjamin Bonenfant
The Laundress: Leslie O’Carroll
The Charwoman: Stephanie Cozart
Merchants from the Exchange: Robert Andrew Koutras, Daniel Langhoff, Jake Williamson
Street Singer: Christine Rowan
Boy in the Street: Edwin Harris
Ensemble (Londoners, Fezziwig Party Guests and Phantoms):
Colin Alexander, Leslie Alexander, Benjamin Bonenfant, Courtney Capek, Stephanie Cozart, Allen Dorsey, Napoleon M. Douglas, Mehry Eslaminia, Michael Fitzpatrick, Ella Galaty, Edwin Harris, Ben W. Heil, Charlie Korman, Robert Andrew Koutras, Daniel Langhoff, Avi Levin, Kyra Lindsay, Brody Lineaweaver, Rodney Lizcano, Emma C. Martin, M. Scott McLean, Leslie O’Carroll, Max Raabe, Augie Reichert, Helen Reichert, James Michael Reilly, Jeffrey Roark, Christine Rowan, Nate Patrick Siebert, Shannon Steele, Olivia Sullivent, Jake Williamson, Erin Willis, Owen Zitek.