Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

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Note: Entire Contents Copyright 2016 by Tony Annicone



”A CHRISTMAS CAROL”

Reviewed by Tony Annicone



Trinity Repertory Company ushers the holiday season in with their annual presentation and their 39th production of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming. The show's underlying themes of charity, forbearance and benevolence are universal and are equally relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds especially now after this contentious election and climate of this country. This familiar tale is about the curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come who hope to change his destiny and save his soul to ultimately to discover the true meaning of Christmas. Director James Dean Palmer creates a different and unusual telling of this well known Christmas tale while musical director Michael Rice, plays lead keyboards and conducts a four piece orchestra. Choreographer Myah Shein makes the cast shine in her dance numbers. The enthusiastic audience thoroughly enjoyed the show with thunderous applause and standing ovation at curtain call.

This version has three children and their grandparents waiting for their father to arrive home and the children urge their father to read "A Christmas Carol" to them. As he does this, the grandparents and children transform into characters in the play. Leading this huge cast this year is Brian McEleney as Scrooge. He played Marley in last year's version. Brian runs the gamut of emotions as the curmudgeonly miser. His comic moments include yelling at his nephew, Fred, his employee, Bob Cratchit, the almsmen and Tiny Tim to stop singing. However the power of the role occurs in Fan's death, the break up with Belle, and the death of Tiny Tim. This is where the audience is moved to tears at his strong dramatic performance in these scenes. His transformation sequence is amazing to behold as he speaks directly to the audience. The audience discovers how Scrooge has turned into a better man by learning from the past, present and future on how to gain redemption at last. I last reviewed Brian as Tom in "The Glass Menagerie" last season. Brian delivers a powerhouse performance in this role.

This version also has a narrator/the father played by Kamkli Feelings who transitions the show from scene to scene. The first ghost to scare the audience is Anne Scurria as Jacob Marley. She has an earlier scene as the Grandmother and then comes back to scare the crap out of the audience. She scares not only Scrooge but the entire audience with her emphatic delivery of her lines. The three ghosts are excellently played in this version. Rebecca Gibel is one of the sexiest Christmas Past's I have ever seen. She chastises him as they look back on how he enjoyed Christmas as a boy with his sister, Fan and at the Fezziwig's party when he fell in love with Belle. Her entrance as the ghost is stunning and commands the stage in this segment. She twirls around the stage with Scrooge bringing him back to the past which wins much laughter.

Gustavo Londono does a topnotch job as Boy Scrooge as does Lillian Johnson as Fan. Belle is played with a great deal of warmth and charm by Maggie Mason. She gives a tear jerking feel to the break up that is perfect. Michael Mahoney is excellent as Young Man Scrooge as he captures the loving attitude with Belle, the callousness later on and the anguish when they break up. He has a fantastic singing voice. The levity in the show is provided by Stephen Thorne as Fezziwig. He is an expert at comic as well as dramatic roles. Stephen leaves you laughing merrily at his jolly behavior as this kindly benefactor of the past Christmas celebrations. The dance number in this scene is excellently executed. Bravo as Mr. Fezziwig. He and Matt Ketai play the comic almsman where they both look like Twiddle Dum and Twiddle Dee with fat suits on and speak in high pitched voices. The adlibs are hysterical, too.

Rachael Warren is wonderful as the funky Christmas Present. Her entrance has to be seen to be believed. The spirit not only spreads Christmas cheer but teaches Scrooge how to be kinder to his fellow man. She cajoles him as they observe the suffering around them especially poignant is the miners scene. Rebecca sings "Hard Times" with the chorus joining in which is a poignant moment. Michael Mahoney is also terrific as Fred and learned this role and the others in just six hours. He brings a great deal of energy to this role and possesses a magnificent voice. Lucy Van Atta plays his beautiful wife who also has a stunning voice.Gustavo plays Christmas Future who frightens the audience with his ominous presence and demeanor while showing Scrooge, the Old Jo, the death of Tim and the gravestone scenes.

Chris Stahl plays the likeable Bob Cratchit wonderfully. He has some comic moments early on in the show and in the first family scene but displays his dramatic acting chops with the death of Tim sequence. Grandma Cratchit is played beautifully by Anne Scurria while the talented children are played by Lucy as Aunt Martha, Lillian as Belinda and Lana Lacombe as Petra. Gustavo does a marvelous job as Tiny Tim. He gives the character the pathos and spunk it need to pull off this iconic role and displays his marvelous voice in "Snowflake", a poignant number that closes Act 1. He is one of the best Tiny Tims I have seen. Also hilarious is the Fat Cats/Low Lifes who sing a hora called "God's Away" while they sing and dance up a storm. Anne Scurria is a hoot as Old Jo in the counting house sequence with Matt Katai as the Undertaker, Rachael as the Char woman and Maggie Mason as Miss Dilber, the laundress. So for an annual season treat that the audience desperately needs this year, be sure to catch "A Christmas Carol" at Trinity Rep. It will leave you laughing merrily and definitely will help you get into the Christmas spirit.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL (5 November to 31 December)
Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St, Providence, RI
1(401)351-4242 or www.trinityrep.com




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