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Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Christmas Carol


Gabriel Levy (Tiny Tim) & William Metzo (Ebenezer Scrooge).



Author: Charles Dickens.  

Adapted and directed by:  Murray Ross

CompanyTheatreworks

Venue:  Dusty Loo Bon Vivant Theater, 3955 Regent Circle, Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Running time:  80 minutes (no intermission).

Date of Performance:  Saturday, December 3, 2016. 

Make no mistake; Ebeneezer Scrooge deserves his literary notoriety as a cruel, heartless miser.  

“What‟s Christmas to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older but not an hour richer. If I could work my will, every idiot who goes about with “Merry Christmas” on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.”

The above quote from one of the first scenes of A Christmas Carol is self explanatory.  Scrooge is a misguided misanthrope, and proud of it.  That’s how we still see him today, 173 years after Dickens published his novella A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas (now commonly known as A Christmas Carol).

Theatreworks has produced the Dickens classic 10 times over the last 46 years, and this, the 10th production, is an interesting deviation from what we’ve come to expect.  Artistic Director (and production director) Murray Ross describes it this way:

“This reimagining of the Dickens classic insists that performance is just as much about the loving communion between actors and audience as it is about the moral delivered…we return to “A Christmas Carol” at a moment when our country is deeply divided over what seems to be intractable differences and calls for goodwill and compassion are much needed.”

Ross has definitely created a kinder, gentler, and more compassionate story.  His Scrooge (William Metzo) is a flawed but genuinely human guy whose redemption is based more on enlightenment than fear.  

Ross’ ghosts are not the ones we expect; they are more spiritual than demonic. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Shay Anderson, who doubles as Martha Cratchit) is a delicate, gentle soul won’t judge Scrooge.  The Ghost of Christmas Present (Sammie Joe Kinnett, who also plays Fezziwg) is a mischievous mirage, winning Scrooge over (and by extension, all of us) with a wink and a smile.  The Ghost of Christmas Future (Steve Wallace, who doubles as Marley) is decidedly soothing in both his roles. He’s not the tormented ghost we expect.  Rather, he’s a much needed cautionary tale for Scrooge.  No scary ghosts?  Nope.  None.  In fact, even their costumes (designed by Stephanie Bradley) suggest something other than fear.  Shay Anderson is dressed all in white, adorned with some tiny multicolored Christmas lights.  She looks nothing short of angelic.  Sammie Joe Kinnett sits on a throne, dressed in royal robes. He’s more enlightened despot than scary phantom.  
L-R:  Lynn Hastings (Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Cratchit), Mike Lee (Bob Cratchit, Dick Wilkins),
 Gabriel Levy (Tiny Tim), William Metzo (Ebenezer Scrooge).  

This kinder, gentler production benefits greatly from its youngest performers.  Gabriel Levy (Tiny Tim) has the look of a tragic child of crushing poverty, but also the youthful exuberance of a compelling Tiny Tim.  It took about 10 seconds for me to realize that he’s as talented and lovable a Tiny Tim as any I’ve seen.  Kensington Van Hook (Fan/Belinda Cratchit) is remarkable for a 7 year old.  She knew every line and delivers each with a 7 year old’s sincerity and innocence.  She hits every mark, and steals every heart.

Lighting Designer Seth Alison distinguished himself here, using subdued lighting punctuated with several scenes lit only by candlelight.  Those scenes were both striking and authentic; one can easily imagine candlelight being the only light in a 19th century impoverished London hovel.  This is a stripped down production, with a simple set, a small cast, and a breezy pace for it’s 80 minutes.  The tone and the message are fresh and relevant.  This is A Christmas Carol with a heart but not a villain.  

We all know Scrooge for his flaws, but he rarely gets credit for his redemption.  Perhaps it is time we rethink A Christmas Carol and recognize that Scrooge is a model, not a pariah.  He learns, he changes, and he literally puts “his money where his mouth is.”  We can learn from his mistakes, and we can make his transformation our own.   

Ross mentions “the loving communion between actors and audience,” and that’s exactly what he delivers.  The actors invite the audience onto the stage to join them for a cup of mulled wine after the curtain call.  It’s a special moment, bringing the two groups together to celebrate, and importantly, to communicate.  As Ross says, at this moment in time, goodwill and compassion are essential.  A Christmas Carol is Ross’ gift to a divided community, binding us with his vision, his actors, and a simple cup of spiced warm wine. 

May we all take the gift and the lessons of A Christmas Carol to heart and recognize the qualities we share…and need.

Join the cast after the show for a spot of mulled wine...

NOTES:

This show closes on December 24, 2016. 

Photo Credit:  Theatreworks.


CREATIVE TEAM:

Artistic Director/Production Director:  Murray Ross

Scenic Artist:  Craig Crowder

Carpenters:  Charles Redding, Benton Gray, Justin Giannetto

Lighting Design:  Seth Alison

Sound Design:  Jason Ducat

Master Electrician:  Eric Grosenbach

Technical Director:  Randy Dipner

Costume Design:  Stephanie Bradley

Props Manager:  Rebecca Dull

Stage Manager:  Elise Jenkins

Assistant Stage Manager:  Alexandrea Pingrey

Production/Shop Crew:  Gia Bhuang, Will Blocker, John Cooke, Jacob Del Valle, Jennifer Gebhart, Ruth Geiger, Natalie Keil, Salvadore Placensia, Charles Redding, Jonathan Smith, Jess Whiteside


CAST:

Ebeneezer Scrooge:  William Metzo*

Bob Cratchit/Dick Wilkins:  Mike Lee

Fred/Young Scrooge/Peter Cratchit/Ali Baba:  Tony Vo

Fezziwig/The Ghost of Christmas Present:  Sammie Joe Kinnett*

Mrs. Fezziwig/Mrs. Cratchit:  Lynn Hastings

Belle/Fred’s Wife/Charwoman:  Rachel Jacobs

The Ghost of Christmas Past/Martha Cratchit:  Shay Anderson

Fan/Belinda Cratchit: Kensington Van Hook

Tiny Tim:  Gabriel Levy

Marley/Ghost of Christmas Future:  Steve Wallace

* Member of the Actor’s Equity Association.

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