A Christmas Carol at the Thirteenth Street Repertory Company sets the Christmas season off to a more than welcome start. It offers something fun and alive for the children as well as layers of meaning for the adults who have seen it over and over again. Surely, A Christmas Carol has its detractors, but it's hard to imagine why with a production of this quality.
The adaptation of Charles Dickens's classic by Sandra Nordgren is effective. She lends a poetic quality to the familiar faces of the tale that goes deeper than usual. Ebenezer is more than just the miser, but a man who mourns the childhood he never had. The use of the ghosts was inventive: the Ghost of Christmas Past asks the audience for help to scare Scrooge because she's too afraid to do it alone, and the Ghost of Christmas Present is cool, with his dark shades and attitude. Further, the story is slimmed down and the theme of community is accented. Not surprisingly, the theme of community coincides with the efforts Thirteenth Street Rep is making to reunite homeless children in foster care with their natural parents by having the experience of seeing this live theatrical presentation together. As well as seeing the production, the kids all get presents and go to McDonald's afterwards. The effort is a noble and important one, and the quality of the production is more than worthy of its intent.
The acting was uniformly good. The performers had a likable energy that drew the audience in. The standouts were the Ghost of Christmas Past, played by the enchanting Karla Chandler; the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by the buoyant Robb Patterson; Tiny Tim, played by the radiant 8-year-old Renata Mittnacht; and, of course, A Christmas Carol is nothing without Ebenezer Scrooge, who as embodied by Jonathan Valuckas displayed a surprising restraint and an honesty that was moving.
Marianna Loosemore staged this classic well in the vein of children's theatre, yet was smart and elegant with her touches. It seemed she didn't merely block her actors but allowed them room to create the world of the play. The musical direction by Robert Kreis was solid: although more singing on stage would always be welcome, the off-stage voices were good. The set design, by Tom Harlan, was colorful, warm, and inviting. The costumes, also by Mr. Harlan, were terrific, true to the period, and fun to watch. The lighting, by Jeff Carnell, was well-done, giving the production a magical quality.
Building communities cast its shadows on everything in this terrific production. There was a sweet gentleness here that the Thirteenth Street Rep. should be proud of. For all those who dislike Charles Dickens's heart-warming tale - bah humbug to you!
Others in the cast: Shari Acker, J. Collin Block,
Ellen Catino, David Long, Michael Tori Mihaly,
Maria Scavullo, Monica Stephenson, Shani Tennyson,
Veronica Mittnacht, Charles Moran, John Pallotta,
and Michael Whitney.
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Copyright 1999 Andrès J. Wrath