Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol"

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note: entire contents copyright 2004 by Carl A. Rossi


"A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

adapted and directed by Erik Rodenhiser, from the Charles Dickens story

Scrooge … Erik Rodenhiser

The Ensemble (on the evening I attended):

Mrs. Cratchitt; Missy … Heidi Duncan
Ghost of Christmas Past; Figure Two … Amanda Hennessey
Fezziwig; Old Joe … Art Hennessey
Young Scrooge; Ghost of Christmas Future … Paul Melendy
Ghost of Christmas Present; Storyteller … Scott Michaud
Belle … Kyla Fallon
Bob Cratchit … Jape Payette
Jacob Marley; Figure One … Steve Stuart

The town of Salem still exists after the Halloween season. Weather permitting, now is the time to go, for Christmas or otherwise, when the tourists have departed and the witchery dwindles to but a piece of the town’s ever-fascinating puzzle. Now one can leisurely stroll through Salem’s streets, day or night, gazing upon her well-preserved brick, marble and clapboard and contemplating her somber contributions to history --- the statues of Nathaniel Hawthorne and Roger Conant continue to guard either end of Hawthorne Street while the Witch Museum glows infernally beside Mr. Conant’s graven image, and Hocus Pocus Tours can still hand you Salem’s dark side in a nutshell. And only now, with breathing space at hand, can one observe the booming future alongside the still-thriving past --- in another decade Salem may well become one of Boston’s main bedrooms as she is easily accessible by commuter rail.

But ‘tis the season and Salem has made room for Christmas: the haystacks that embraced the lamp posts in October have given way to twinkle lights in the barren tree tops and images of Santa and the Christ Child alternate with New Age crystals and historic instruments of torture. Among the seasonal offerings is one of the most unique CHRISTMAS CAROLs, around: a period production of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of Scrooge, the Cratchits and the Ghosts of Past, Present and Future with the audience boarding a trolley (after sunset, of course) and being driven to three assigned locations while Scrooge himself plays the surly emcee. It’s all delightfully corny, doubly so because it works so cleverly from the trolley driver clanging his bell to toll each ghostly hour to the locations themselves (the main room of the old Town Hall, a basement kitchen in the Salem Inn and the Charter Street Cemetery), all with their own period charm; the deserted streets lend themselves well to the storybook entrances and exits and the echoing, fiendish laughter. Children will love this CAROL, giggling between the puns and the thrills, and adults, once bitten, will also enjoy themselves and get a mini-tour of Salem, to boot. (The show leans heavily on audience participation and knows no age or gender; at the Salem Inn, Humble Self was chosen to be Tiny Tim --- afterwards, Scrooge muttered, “Poor Tiny Tim: the youngest in the family and the first to go gray…”)

Now in its seventeenth year, this CHRISTMAS CAROL is well acted with adapter/director Erik Rodenhiser as Scrooge and supported by an interchangeable cast --- the heart of Mr. Dickens’ artistry has always been melodrama, and these actors’ hearts beat warm and strong with it. I have seen Mr. Rodenhiser onstage a good handful of times, now, including one of my own works, and each time he has artlessly reinvented himself be the fare elegant or rough, artificial or barnstorming. Tall, slender and still relatively young, Mr. Rodenhiser is becoming one of the North Shore’s leading lights in community theatre; here, his Scrooge is a tough old bone, stylized yet believable and deserving to be encased in a proscenium production. On the evening I attended, Kyla Fallon was astonishing as a cameo Belle --- an intelligent forthright girl of fresh-scrubbed prettiness and comfortably played within the conventions of early Victoriana --- and Steve Stuart made a properly ghoulish Jacob Marley, all in white and floating on air by merely rocking back and forth on his heels. Paul Melendy had an inspired moment as the faceless Ghost of Christmas Future: while he and Scrooge watched Old Joe and Missy squabble over bed curtains and such, the Ghost’s long, bony talons drummed on Scrooge’s hat as if it were a desk top. There are several quick changes between locations which may involve a car with its motor running --- or a broomstick.

This CHRISTMAS CAROL is sold out for the remainder of its run but will return again, next year. Still, there is Salem herself, always a production in her own right, regardless of the season.

HELP SAVE BOSTON’S HISTORIC GAIETY THEATRE!

"A Christmas Carol" (26 November - 23 December)
GRIFFEN THEATRE
7 Lynde Street, SALEM, MA
1 (978) 744-5469 (Salem Trolley)

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

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