note: entire contents copyright 2014 by Richard Pacheco
It’s that time of year again, the time to trot out those Christmas classics and show them off to best effect. Trinity Rep revives the classic Dickens tale this year from the adaptation by Trinity Founder Adrian Hall and Richard Cummings. It gets of to a shaky start with an awkward beginning scene it turns into rip roaring fun. Yes, there are some changes this year and they work well and is very satisfying and delightful.
It masterfully evades sentimentality and sugary goodness while remaining poignant and moving where it should be. The familiar tale of the curmudgeon Scrooge, the epitome of skinflint transforms from Christmas hater to its most ardent devotee is a charming journey filled with many delights along the way that are sure to please.
Fred Sullivan Jr. as Scrooge, the tireless businessman who finds value in the cash and not his fellow man is full of zest and energy. He is not brooding or dark as the earlier Scrooge, but instead is full of rambunctious bluster, not at all a shriveled up mean spirited misanthrope. It’s a keenly delivered performance, full of humor and sizzling with energy. Scrooge is indeed a miser in his hands, but one full of presence and energy.
Tom Gleadow is Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s now deceased partner. He has some brief moments as Scrooge recalls the living partner and gives an indication of his business acumen and likewise stingy nature. When he appears as the ghost of Marley, wailing and howling, wearing chains and the grave trappings, he is ominous and may prove too frightening for younger children as the young girl near me begged her mother to leave which she eventually did.. It was very effective as he rises from Scrooge’s bed in the most eerie manner. Gleadow is right on the mark as Marley, delivering his ominous warning with purpose and determination. He is also effective as the ebullient Mr. Feziwig, Scrooge’s boss in his youth.
Elise Hudson is the Ghost of Christmas Past and she enters with flair and presence, as she descends from the ceiling in a white flowing gown that give the impression of airiness and flight. It is a spectacular entrance that leaves and impact and she is poised and patient as the spirit who leads Scrooge to his more pleasant past with fond memories such as the woman he almost married, Belle and the Feziwigs, Scrooge’s boss and his wife.
Joe Wilson, Jr. makes an amazing entrance as the Ghost of Christmas Present, zooming in from above wearing tights, a handlebar moustache and top hat to hilarious effect. He bounds about with zip and zest as he speaks with Scrooge, full of merry energy and sheer fun. It is delightful.
The Ghost of Christmas Future is a dark and ominous figure, looming and dark, with hands, rather massive threatening mitts which dangle to the floor, but is never really particularly terrifying or ever full of dark threatening prescience or menace. Ralph Adriel Johnson handles it with a brooding , nearly plodding movement that is dark, but not terrifying.
Anne Scurria does multiple duty here with the skill and finesse for which she has always been known as Mrs. Feziwig, Scrooge’s crusty and cranky charwoman is a pleasure.
Stephen Thorne is there as the hapless assistant to Scrooge, Bob Cratchitt. He is excellent as the frightened obedient employee whose concerns for his family and in particular his injured son, Tiny Tim keeps him in line at work for fear of losing his job.
Michael Jennings Mahoney is Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, son to Scrooge’s beloved dead sister and his only living family. Fed continues to try to make contact with his uncle, reach him emotionally, but is always blocked by Scrooge’s indifference and mockery until his transformation by the ghosts’ visits. He is sincere and convincing in the role, full of enthusiasm and conviction.
Henry Siravo who played Tiny Tim in the press opening was endearing and cute but did not show much enthusiasm in the scene where he blesses everyone. There are tow cast of children, the red cast and the green cast. The red cast performed on the press night.
For the purists, there are some elements missing or not emphasized here. There is no showing or mention of how Scrooge ruins his former boss in his descent to parsimony and self absorption. Scrooge’s break up with Belle lacks a romantic impact and power that it might have. But there are small things in an otherwise wonderful and entertaining version of the Christmas classic.
Director Taibi Magar keeps the pace moving merrily along, at times abbreviated, but always fun.
The sets by Patrick Lynch and lean and streamlined, not heavy into detail and atmosphere, while they do indeed invoke the right mood and atmosphere they do so lightly and without a heavy hand.
The Olivera Gajic costumes are rich and wonderful.