A scene from A Christmas Carol. Photo: Katie Willis Rhodes Photography. 

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A Christmas Carol

Based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Adapted & directed by Kathy Preher Reynolds

A review by Brian Kennedy

Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Brian Kennedy. All rights reserved.

A Christmas Carol at Highview Arts Center wasn’t quite “bah humbug”, but it mostly had a hard time finding the Christmas spirit.

This adaptation of the classic tale by local theatre artist Kathy Preher Reynolds stays close to the source material. Scrooge (Michael Harris), with his “bah humbug” attitude, is visited by his old partner, Marley (Jordan Aiken), then three Christmas ghosts, and must find his Christmas spirit in time.

A Christmas Carol clocked in at one hour and twenty minutes (counting a 10-minute intermission). For such a short show, it was incredibly wordy. The narrators had plenty to say. So much that at many points it felt redundant. For example, a narrator describes Scrooge closing a window and going to bed…as he was closing a window and going to bed. Let the actions carry the story..

The sets, meanwhile, were very well done. The flats were painted exquisitely with the various scenes, including a city street, Scrooge’s office, and several homes. Audience members were audibly commenting on the beauty and attention to detail in each of the flats, which then opened up or were turned around to present other scenes as needed. This was a creative use of the limited space. Kudos to set designer Jill Marie Guelda, scenic artists Reynolds, Guelda, and Karl Anderson, and lead carpenter Zac Campbell Hoogendyk for their excellent work.

For all the wonderful scenery, it couldn’t make up for the lack of dynamics from the actors, especially in the entire first act. The actors just recited their lines and did their blocking. There was never a change in tone in their voices or movements when the moment required it.  Maybe it was because of a last-minute casting change (director Kathy Preher Reynolds substituted, script in hand, for Narrator 1.) Onstage energy is subject to many things.. Regardless, it was frustrating that the show was missing the deeper levels of passion and drama the story needed.

The second act improved slightly, although dynamics were still missing from most actors. Scrooge (Michael Harris) was hilarious as he tried to make facial expressions as well as shapes with his hands in a game of charades. Meanwhile, the first entrance of Christmas Present (Mike Guelda) was very funny and immediately gave him control of the scene. His facial expressions and vocal tone varied wonderfully and there was authority in the performance.

Highview Arts Center is already sold out the first weekend of A Christmas Carol. Hopefully, the energy and commitment onstage will continue to build. Despite the aforementioned issues, there’s enough of a Louisville artist’s new take on an old classic for Highview Arts Center to build upon and potentially turn this into a perenniall Christmas classic

Featuring Jordan Aikin, Olivia Daniels, Jason Effinger, Mike Guelda, Michael Harris, Taylor Hooper, Roz Howlett, Mary Anne Mathews, Stuart Reynolds, Jake Rosenberger, Layla Schreiner, Rosemary Sims, & Jazmin Smith.

A Christmas Carol

December 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, & 16 @ 7:30 pm
December 10 & 17 @ 2:30 pm 

Highview Arts Center
7406 Fegenbush Lane
Louisville, KY 40206

Brian Kennedy is a nearly life-long Louisville resident who has performed in plays since 2004. He also wrote extensively about the Louisville theatre scene for Louisville.com and Examiner.com from 2009-2015. Currently, he maintains the theatre blog LouBriantheater. When not involved in the theatre scene, he is an avid runner, participating in 5Ks throughout the state and in southern Indiana.