Wednesday, December 13, 2006

A Christmas Carol

You’d better watch out, you’d better not cry...Ebenezer Scrooge is coming to town. In fact, he’s already here, snarling his way around the stage at the Sacramento Theater Company as it revives the perennial favorite adapted by Richard Hellesen from the classic Charles Dickens novel, with music composed and adapted by David de Berry. The production is directed once again by Philip Charles Sneed.

The production will continue to entertain audiences through December 24

This is a real extravaganza for STC, with a cast of 40 (many roles are double cast) including six members of one family: Amanda, Caleb, Campbell, Christian, Colby and Cooper Salmon.

Though music is an important part, this is really more of a play with music than a musical. Extensive narration, straight out of the pages of Dickens’ original work, overlaps with the action, and the narration is delivered by actors who also move the set pieces around the stage as they verbally set up the next scene. The music is not intrusive, but adds just the right touch at just the right moment. The accompaniment is pre-recorded.

Once again, the scenic design of UCD graduate John Klonowski (with complementary lighting by designer Victor En Yu Tan) effectively twists, turns, and rolls around the stage creating minimal settings, which nicely suggests the fuller settings they represent.

As the show begins, Davis student Camille Totah, now 13, whom we have watched grow up in local theatrical productions slowly walks across the stage as a young beggar child, singing “Advent Carol,” as she asks for a donation from the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.

This year’s Ebenezer Scrooge is played by veteran actor David Silberman (Jacob Marley in last year’s production), who makes everyone’s favorite curmudgeon a believable character, without becoming a caricature.

Don Hayden steps into the chains of Jacob Marley, come to warn his old partner of the pain that will befall him if he does not change his ways. Marley sets up the visits of three spirits who will help him to look back over his life in the hope of helping him make some changes before it is too late.

I never have understood why Dickens writes that the spirits will come on three successive nights, when the first comes on Christmas eve and the last leaves before Christmas morning...or what Scrooge does on the days between, but that answer is long-buried with the author.

Michele Hillen is the ghost of Christmas present (and later Mrs. Cratchit), who guides Scrooge to the school he attended, and his first place of employment, happier times of his life before he became so centered on money. Cooper Salmon plays the youngest Scrooge, Brennan Villados is Ebenezer the apprentice, and Colby Salmon is -Ebenezer the young man.

Anna Miles makes a strikingly lovely entrance as Fan, Ebenezer’s sister come to bring him home from school. As Fan sings the beautiful “Home at Christmastide,” there is a brief softening of the present day Ebenezer’s heart as he remembers the young beggar child whom he shunned the day before.

Scrooge visits himself as a young apprentice to the ebullient Fezziwig (Mark Standriff, who appears later as the Ghost of Christmas Present), and as the young man whose burgeoning love of money forces a break-up with his beloved Belle (Lauryn Caruso, who later also plays Martha Cratchit, and still later Belle’s daughter). Mary Baird is the equally ebullient Mrs. Fezziwig in an amazing costume.

Standriff returns as the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present and accompanies Ebenezer to the home of his nephew (George Schau), a man of modest means whose heart seems full of love for everyone, even his miserly uncle.

At the home of his long-suffering clerk, Bob Cratchit (the delightful Gillen Morrison) and his wife (Gillen) Ebenezer has another tug at his heartstrings as he watches the crippled Tiny Tim (6 year old Campbell Salmon, whose brother played the role last year). Others in the Cratchit family are Carey Porter reprising his role as Peter, Amanda Salmon as Belinda, Cooper Salmon as Edward, and Caruso as Martha.

Zack Sapunor has no words to speak as the Ghost of Christmas yet to come but makes the most of the opportunity to look menacing.

By the end of the story, of course, Scrooge has come to see the error of his ways, makes nice with his nephew, sends “Turkey Boy” (Christian Salmon) off to buy the biggest bird in town and have it delivered anonymously to the Cratchits and we realize that the dire scenes projected by the Ghost of Christmas yet to come will be altered, everybody will live happily ever after, and Tiny Tim will grow stronger and live to offer many more “God Bless us every one”s

As for Scrooge, “His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

From a fellow reviewer: Well done. I admire your tenacity in viewing yet another Christmas Carol. I had to review the same company's CC two years in a row, and this year I reviewed "Scrooge" the musical -- yet another version of the same. I'm beginning to think all theater reviewers should take the holiday season off.