Theatre Mirror Reviews - "A Christmas Carol"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Carl A. Rossi


"A CHRISTMAS CAROL"

by Charles Dickens
adapted and directed by Troy Siebels

Cast (in alphabetical order):

Diego Arciniegas … Ghost of Jacob Marley; Old Joe
Elizabeth Asti … Lucy; Ensemble
Shelley Bolman … Young Ebenezer; Ensemble
Christopher Chew … Bob Cratchit
Laura D. DeGiacomo … Belle; Suzannah
Brian De Lorenzo … Charitable Gent; Dick Wilkins; Topper
Brian Goodell … Peter Cratchit; Young Scrooge
Sarah Goodell … Martha Cratchit
Shawn Hamel … Tiny Tim; Ignorance
Peter Edmund Haydu … Timothy
Julie Jirousek … Charwoman; Millie
Joelle Kross … Belinda Cratchit
Katherine Lucas … Ghost of Christmas Past
Ellen Peterson … Vendor; Laundress
Katie Pickett … Party Guest; Ensemble
Dale Place … Ebenezer Scrooge
Thomas M. Reiff … Mr. Fezziwig; Ghost of Christmas Present
Tony Rossi … Ghost of Christmas Future; Fezziwig Worker
Deirdre Shaw … Mrs. Fezziwig; Ensemble
Samantha Smith … Fan; Ensemble
Kathy St. George … Mrs. Cratchit
Siobhan Stimpson … Caroling Child; Want
Shawn Sturnick … Fred

The Stoneham Theatre’s annual production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL will easily prove to be one of the most joyous events of the newborn holiday season; it is certainly one of the loveliest, visually, aurally and just plain theatrically. Those who equate Charles Dickens’ tale with heaps of sugar will be surprised and delighted with Troy Siebels’ adaptation, done in semi-presentational style and narrated for the most part by a grown-up Tiny Tim who sports a walking stick instead of a crutch. Mr. Dickens clearly loved the theatre and A CHRISTMAS CAROL is, just below the surface, a thundering melodrama complete with ghosts, heart-tugging sentiments and the redemption of a man’s soul, and Mr. Siebels does not skimp in any of those departments. His production, beautifully designed by Janie E. Howland, lit by Charlie Morrison and clothed by Allison Szklarz, is a richly textured pop-up book, all dour bricks, garish gaslights and crisp December weather, and Mr. Siebels weaves in much glorious a cappella caroling to link it all together --- amazingly, the enchanted audience doesn’t break into applause except for the Ghost of Christmas Present number (obviously geared to be a showstopper). There are unforgettable moments, done with Mr. Siebel’s own apparent love for Victorian stagecraft: Marley’s ghost, glowing greenly through Scrooge’s front door; the little PING! that an engagement ring makes when dropped in a small pair of scales; elegant couples waltzing to “Greensleeves”; the feral bickering over Scrooge’s bed sheets and curtains; a glowing gravestone right out of Halloween; the collapsing of the Ghost of Christmas Future into nothing; etc., etc., etc. Lovely!

Mr. Siebels’ cast boasts many a familiar Boston actor, each one a fine one on his or her own; here, they blend into a seamless ensemble and a most convincing community --- the highest praise I can give is there are no standouts, here: they are the raisins embedded in Mr. Dickens' pudding; some of the British accents fade in and out but everyone, thin or plump, looks so RIGHT and play with such good holiday cheer that my eyes filled with tears, several times, over their achievement. (Humbugs, look elsewhere for your “Bahs”!)

Lean, silvery Dale Place seems destined to be ever cast as villains and cads and, indeed, he does bring a touch of winter’s frost whenever he steps onto a stage. His Scrooge, not surprisingly, succeeds on several levels: in a revealing article about his countrymen, E. M. Forster wrote that the English heart is green when it comes to the emotions, hence their reputed coldness, and Mr. Place’s miser is very much the withered bud. A warmer actor would, no doubt, send signals to his audience that is he is not really like this, offstage; Mr. Place plays Scrooge as an all-too-practical man driven to extremes without giving a tinker’s cuss as to what the world thinks of him --- Scrooge's mind has become a clockwork orange; Time and Money are his gods (and who can say that he himself has never knelt before these altars?). Mr. Place's line readings are as sharp as a quill scratching in a ledger and as pinched as a penny grudgingly placed in an open palm. As for Scrooge’s conversion, Mr. Place does not turn soggy but instead becomes an amusing eccentric, a King Midas not knowing who or what to touch first, and we know how the Brits love their eccentrics. Mr. Siebels’ production is such a solid one that a second-rate Scrooge couldn’t harm it even if he tried; with the first-rate Mr. Place as the sour cherry atop it all, this CHRISTMAS CAROL becomes a whole-hearted holiday recommendation.

God bless them, every one!

"A Christmas Carol" (28 November-23 December)
STONEHAM THEATRE
395 Main Street, STONEHAM, MA
1 (781) 279-2200

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