note: entire contents copyright 2003 by G. L. Horton
The scrumptous decorative excesses of Emerson College's rehabilitated Cutler Majestic Theatre make a picture-perfect setting for the new and revised version of Trinity Repertory Company's popular staging of Dickens's "A Christmas Carol", which in this incarnation stars Stacy Keach and features a handful of familiar Boston-based singing actors in the large and excellent cast. It is a rare treat to have it in Boston's theatre district, and just the ticket for lifting the spirit in time for the holidays.
In his adaptation Trinity artistic director Oskar Eustis has given Scrooze a Satanic Mill of a factory in addition to his nefarious activities in counting house and 'change, and composer Amanda Dehnert has set some of the Dickens narrative for the chorus as allusive pastiche referring to a host of historic instances of Scroogery. Visually and aurally it's close to an overload: everything from kitchen-sink realism to agit-prop didacticism: Shakespearean sweep and Victorian sentimentality, with Christmas Past swooping in like an angel out of Kushner--- looking and sounding a little like Prince/Sondheim, a little like Brecht/Weill, and a whole lot like those romantic Christmas illustrations that harken back to earlier English eras for prettified pre-industrial versions of faith and jollity. During the opening minutes I was afraid the story would crack under the strain of metastasizing metaphors-- but no: Kevin Moriarty's direction seems to have welded it together with the white heat of inspiration. It coheres, it works, it's wonderful. Particularly wonderful is the management of the narrative pace and the "circles of attention"-- minor characters interacting in a full and rounded scene,
Scrooge mingling unseen amongst them and reacting, the ghostly spirit in flight or posed, widening the circle to take in the audience or guiding the tightened focus to a new set of characters-- incredibly complex, yet perfectly calibrated to deliver the widest and deepest story to both mind and heart. Keach's central performance as Scrooge is a classic star turn, huge and layered and full out, but so skillfully managed that is delicately merged with the ensemble and does not overbalance it. After all, the proof of Scrooge's redemption is that he becomes open to his fellow men and puts himself at their service!
Throughout, Trinity's "Christmas Carol" is a demonstration of how good a good rep company can be. From Timothy Crowe-- who must be a formidable Scrooge himself-- to the half dozen singing and acting children under the age of twelve who are only cute when it is absolutely necessary, the company has both solidity and freshness.
They are at home on stage, at home with the material, and that makes their Boston home at the Emerson Majestic a great place to visit.
Trinity's is the 6th "Carol" I've seen this season, all of them quite good, yet the intermissionless hour and a half or so just flew by. I wanted to shout "encore!"