Theatre Mirror Reviews-"A Christmas Carol"

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entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"A Christmas Carol"

A Review by Tony Annicone

Trinity Rep ushers in the holiday season with Charles Dickens' classic tale of redemption in  "A Christmas Carol" adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming. The shows underlying themes of charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence are universal, and are equally relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds.The show tells the well known story of the curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Marley, Christmases Past, Present and Yet-to-Come who hope to change his destiny and save his soul. The audience will travel with him as he sets off on a strange and magical journey to ultimately discover the true meaning of Christmas. Director Taibi Magar creates a fantastic telling of this familiar Christmas tale with her keen insight into these Dickens characters while Michael Rice is the musical director plays lead keyboards and conducts a four piece orchestra. Taibi, Michael and their talented cast are rewarded with a thunderous standing ovation at the close of the show.

Taibi keeps the show in constant motion, blending the comic and dramatic moments together splendidly. Taibi obtains many laughs and some tears on the journey of Scrooge's tale.Leading this talented cast is the incomparable, Fred Sullivan Jr. as Scrooge. He delivers a tour-de-force performance as this stingy miser. Fred runs the gamut of emotions as Ebenezer, making you laugh and cry at all the appropriate moments along the way. His comic moments include yelling at his nephew, Fred, his employee, Bob Cratchit,  the almsmen and the carolers as they are singing to shut up. But it is in Fan's death, the break up with Belle, the death of Tiny Tim and Scrooge's transformation scene that the pathos pours across the footlights, leaving the audience in tears at Fred's gut wrenching portrayal of Scrooge. The audience observes how Scrooge has become a better man by learning from the past, present and future. Fred Sullivan Jr. always delivers marvelous performances in his many roles but his exuberance as Ebenezer is phenomenal to behold. Bravo!

The first ghost to scare the audience is Tom Gleadow as Jacob Marley. There is a flashback to when he was alive with the cast singing "Scrooge and Marley" but his entrance as the Ghost shocks you. He frightens not only Scrooge but the audience, too with his emphatic delivery of Marley's lines. His hilarious entrance is astounding and has to be seen to be believed. I won't mention it so I won't spoil it for the audience. The three ghosts are excellently played. Christmas Past is played by Elise Hudson. She flies over Scrooge's head, hovering over him as she chides Ebenezer as he watches himself enjoy Christmas as a young boy with his sister, Fan and at Fezziwig's party when he fell in love with Belle. Thomas Fitzgerald does a wonderful job as Boy Scrooge as does  Emma Broomfield as Fan. Belle is played with great warmth and charm by Shelley Fort. Young Scrooge is wonderfully played by Andrew Polec who also has a topnotch singing voice. Their scenes crackle with intensity and leave you in tears at their break-up. The Fezziwigs are well played by Tom Gleadow and Anne Scurria. They bring a much needed levity to the show. Their song and dance to "Sleigh Ride" is brilliantly executed.

Joe Wilson Jr. is terrific as Christmas Present and commands the stage in this role. This spirit not only spreads Christmas cheer, he teaches Scrooge an important lesson on how to treat his fellow man. Joe flies over the audience's head and does somersaults over them. He cajoles Scrooge as he shows him the plight of the Crachit family and how his nephew Fred is spending Christmas day as well as a poignant scene with the poor people of the city. Fred is excellently played by Michael Jennings Mahoney who brings a lot of energy and comedy to this role. He has a phenomenal tenor voice which soars in many songs during the show. plays his beautiful wife. Ronin Walter Scott scares the crap out of everyone as Christmas Future when he shows Scrooge the fate that awaits him. The spirit tells him that he must reform his ways as he shows him the Old Joe, Tiny Tim death and the gravestone scenes.

The Cratchit family is marvelous, too. Stephen Thorne shines as Bob Cratchit. He handles some comic moments at the start of the show by having his tongue stick to the tea cup, spill the coal on the floor and find a mouse in the furnace. Also comic is the first family scene as well as the last one. Stephen also plays the dramatic segments beautifully especially the Tiny Tim death scene.  Ava Gaudet as Mrs. Cratchit who displays her acting prowess. The talented Cratchit children are Tara Sullivan as Martha, Samia Nash as Belinda and Bobby Miller III as Peter. Henry Siravo is Tiny Tim and the audience ooh's and aah's at him in this role. Playing the comic deaf Mrs. Partlet is Anne Scurria who serves Scrooge his gruel and his tea. The very funny Old Joe scene contains Tom as Old Joe, Mrs. Partlet,Joe Wilson Jr. as the Undertaker's Man and Devon Caraway as the Char woman. So for a magnificent rendition of "A Christmas Carol" be sure to catch Fred Sullivan Jr. and his castmates to get you into the holiday spirit before time runs out. Tell them Tony sent you!

"A Christmas Carol" (8 November - 31 December)
@ 201 Washington Street, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide