The Black Box Theatre in Cranston's current production is "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens adapted by Israel Horowitz, the timeless story of how Ebenezer Scrooge comes to appreciate the true meaning of Christmas. In this version Jacob Marley appears first onstage to describe to the audience how he is going to teach Scrooge how to become a better person than he is. The Artists' Exchange, a community theatre group and their parent company "Gateways to Change", a private non-profit agency for adults with disabilities collaborate to create a true family version by showing everyone how to get along with each other no matter what their circumstances in life may be. Director Rich Morra says in his director's notes that as the holidays approach, we are now faced with hard economic times that make celebrating the season seem less important than in years past. We now have a new leadership in our nation that makes these hard times seem possible to overcome and Rich's hope is that we extend ourselves to helping those who need it, not just during the holidays but all the year. Hope is the element of humanity that holds the Cratchits and by extension, all of us together. Rich not only directs this huge undertaking but also plays the pivotal role of Bob Cratchit.(The biggest tear jerker scene in the show is the death of Tiny Tim where Rich and the whole Cratchit family tug at your heartstrings with tears flowing from grown men.) He makes Jacob Marley frightening at first then more humorous as he speaks directly to the audience. Rich incorporates several Christmas Carols to the show which is musically directed by Nicole Zambuto who also uses her fantastic soprano voice in the chorus but it especially stands out in the trio "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" with exquisite harmonization by Robert C. Reynolds( plays Fezziwig and Old Joe) and Alex Rotella(Young Scrooge) in Act one and "Ave Maria" which opens the second act. Tom Chase supplies the piano accompaniment which moves you to laughter or tears depending on the mood of the scene. The characters of Scrooge and company come to life marvelously in this telling of the well known tale which leads to a standing ovation as its ultimate reward.
"Angels We Have Heard on High'' is the chorus' first song of the show and they excel in splendid harmonization. Rich is aided in this huge task by hard working stage manager, Jenny Sivo who keeps the scene changes flowing smoothly all night long. Veteran actor Mark Carter who is in his thirties but has a resume a mile long tackles the role of Jacob Marley successfully. (Fright make-up is by Katie Bouchard.) He weaves in and out of his many scenes with ease. Ken Benoit is scary as the old skinflint but it is his transformation scene that stands out. He becomes as joyous as a schoolboy and shows his love for Christmas beautifully. His joyful nephew and his constantly laughing wife are well played by Robert Macaux and Catherine Fay. (Aubrey Olmstead will do the role the second weekend.) The other three spirits in the show are played excellently. Kayla Quirk is adorable as the Ghost of Christmas Past, speaking her lines forcefully to wake Scrooge out of his sullen stupor. Christmas Present played by Sam Hood who is the famous author, Ann Hood's son, makes this character larger than life with his commanding presence and excellent diction of his lines which show Scrooge the error of his ways. Christmas Future is played by Erick Betancourt disguised as a huge puppet dressed in black with a scary green Hulk type face and hand with an enormous pointing finger. Other characters include Amanda Volpe as Belle, Serena Palombo as Tiny Tim who utters the most memorable line in the show, "God Bless Us Everyone". Kudos to everyone both young and old in this hard working cast! Bravo and Happy Holidays!