Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol"

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note: entire contents copyright 2006 by Beverly Creasey



New Rep’s Joy to the World
(Through Dec 24th)

By Beverly Creasey

Is there a more uplifting---and delightful--- tale of redemption than Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL? I can’t think of one. Is there a better way to get into the holiday spirit? I don’t think so. If you saw last year’s New Rep production, you know that artistic director Rick Lombardo and company created an elegant and moving portrait of the Dickens classic.

Almost the same cast recreate Lombardo’s adaptation this time, but now Scrooge is a tiny bit naughtier (in an endearing way, of course), the ghost of Christmas Present is a wee bit impatient (in a benevolent, fatherly way) when Scrooge lags behind and all the characters seem to effervesce that wonderful, weightless, indescribable substance everyone craves, called JOY.

Is there a more uplifting---and delightful--- tale of redemption than Dickens’ A CHRISTMAS CAROL? I can’t think of one. Is there a better way to get into the holiday spirit? I don’t think so. If you saw last year’s New Rep production, you know that artistic director Rick Lombardo and company created an elegant and moving portrait of the Dickens classic.

Almost the same cast recreate Lombardo’s adaptation this time, but now Scrooge is a tiny bit naughtier (in an endearing way, of course), the ghost of Christmas Present is a wee bit impatient (in a benevolent, fatherly way) when Scrooge lags behind and all the characters seem to effervesce that wonderful, weightless, indescribable substance everyone craves, called JOY.

To say that almost everyone in the production plays an instrument is to understate the phenomenon by bounds. The smallest of children will amaze you with their musicality. You’ll hear traditional English carols and some new ones (by Anna Lackaff and Lombardo) brimming with surprises, not the least of which is Tiny Tim’s (Spencer Evett) gorgeous solo. Besides animating the quirky denizens of London town, the actors are an accomplished orchestra of piano, pipe, organ, clarinet, chimes, trumpet, violins and tympani.

Paul Farwell as Scrooge blusters and grumbles and fills the theater with a splendid laugh which echoes to the rafters. If Alistair Sim were not my favorite Scrooge, Farwell would be, his reformation is so delicious. He meets his match in Peter Haydu’s frightening ghost of Marley, Ilyse Robbins’ sweet “Glinda” of a Christmas Past apparition and Steven Barkhimer’s all encompassing ghost of Christmas Present. Speaking of ghosts, I’ve never seen a taller “Future” figure. Kudos to the technical staff for the special effects as well as the extraordinary ensemble. Remarkable performances abound: From Brett Cramp’s gentle Bob Crachit to Dawn Tucker’s luminous Mrs. Crachit; From Eric Hamel’s giddy Topper to Terrence O’Malley’s magnanimous nephew Fred, even to the smallest supporting role.

Each character is perfectly etched in Lombardo’s painterly production. His direction fits so well that when Scrooge is taken out to sea and then to the lighthouse (which most versions drop), the scenes complete a triangle which seems utterly natural in front of Peter Colao’s olde English set. John Malinowski’s soft lighting shimmers in the sparkly snow flurries and Christine Alger and Frances Nelson McSherry’s period costumes complement the Victorian authenticity.

To say that almost everyone in the production plays an instrument is to understate the phenomenon by bounds. The smallest of children will amaze you with their musicality. You’ll hear traditional English carols and some new ones (by Anna Lackaff and Lombardo) brimming with surprises, not the least of which is Tiny Tim’s (Spencer Evett) gorgeous solo. Besides animating the quirky denizens of London town, the actors are an accomplished orchestra of piano, pipe, organ, clarinet, chimes, trumpet, violins and tympani.

Paul Farwell as Scrooge blusters and grumbles and fills the theater with a splendid laugh which echoes to the rafters. If Alistair Sim were not my favorite Scrooge, Farwell would be, his reformation is so delicious. He meets his match in Peter Haydu’s frightening ghost of Marley, Ilyse Robbins’ sweet “Glinda” of a Christmas Past apparition and Steven Barkhimer’s all encompassing ghost of Christmas Present. Speaking of ghosts, I’ve never seen a taller “Future” figure. Kudos to the technical staff for the special effects as well as the extraordinary ensemble. Remarkable performances abound: From Brett Cramp’s gentle Bob Crachit to Dawn Tucker’s luminous Mrs. Crachit; From Eric Hamel’s giddy Topper to Terrence O’Malley’s magnanimous nephew Fred, even to the smallest supporting role.

Each character is perfectly etched in Lombardo’s painterly production. His direction fits so well that when Scrooge is taken out to sea and then to the lighthouse (which most versions drop), the scenes complete a triangle which seems utterly natural in front of Peter Colao’s olde English set. John Malinowski’s soft lighting shimmers in the sparkly snow flurries and Christine Alger and Frances Nelson McSherry’s period costumes complement the Victorian authenticity.

"Charles Dickens' Christmas Carol" (10 - 24 December)
http://www.newrep.org/ & WATERTOWN CHILDREN'S THEATRE
Arsenal Center for the Arts, WATERTOWN MA
1(617)923-8487


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