John Tufts and John G. Preston. Photo: Jonathan Roberts
Help Keep Arts-Louisville.com Alive! Click Here to DONATE!
A Christmas Carol
Based on the book by Charles Dickens, adapted by Barbara Field
Directed by Drew Fracher
A review by Jennifer Starr
Entire contents are copyright © 2019 by Jennifer Starr. All rights reserved.
God Bless us, everyone! My childhood came back to me while witnessing the holiday classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. This annual production by Actors Theatre of Louisville hit all the high notes on opening night and delivered a magical feast for the eyes, ears, and heart. After four decades this production still thrills and delivers the message of redemption and kindness from the past, present, and future. I was so happy to experience it among many families and I especially enjoyed hearing and seeing children’s reactions to the show.
By now you must know the tale of the Victorian miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, who learns the true spirit of Christmas after being visited one Christmas Eve by his old partner in chains, Jacob Marley. Three ghosts haunt old man Scrooge’s dreams that night and teach him about himself and how his life choices turned him from sweetness into bitterness. When Scrooge awakens on Christmas day he is reborn as a wisdom-filled older man who finds the joy of life again. See “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” or “It’s A Wonderful Life” for other spins on this classic yarn.
While on his journey of self-discovery Scrooge encounters several characters living in the past, present, and future who add depth, empathy, and charm to this age-old tale of metamorphosis. The Actors Theatre production did not disappoint in the re-telling of what could be a churned out, overdone drama. The story remains solidly Victorian but they take enough liberties to eke out every instance of nuanced horror and humor while adding in modern technology. I could tell watching this version that ATL is out to gain audiences of the future by capturing the imaginations of today’s hypermedia influenced children and their parents. The use of aerial acrobatics, campy humor, special effects, and musicians on stage worked seamlessly. I was enchanted.
I especially appreciated the skill of actor John G. Preston whose Scrooge brought about a nice growth curve throughout the production while he travels from grump to jovial whippersnapper. He was a joy to watch. Other highlights include actors who are skilled musicians and singers in the production. Kara Mikula, as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Grigsby, provided some show-stopping moments both as gifted soprano and jack-of-all-instruments, and Whit K. Lee fiddles and dances about with ease while providing a soundtrack befitting somber and beautiful scenes. Lastly, the ghost of Christmas past, Lindsey Noel Whiting was breathtakingly ethereal and added another magical level to the production.
A fine ensemble full of energy helped the show scamper along at a nice pace. The child actors were on point and engaging. Little Tiny Tim, Stella Russell, was just lovely and heart-melting. I would have enjoyed a stronger Bob Cratchit, played by Johann George, who at times was hard to hear from the fourth row. The Fezziwig family party scenes were filled with dancing and merriment, though a little too campy with a sight gag or two. Scrooge’s Nephew Fred, played by Peter Hargrave, and V. Reibel as the narrator were the other commendable performances.
Through the use of special effects and sound cues, the ghost of Jacob Marley (John Tufts) was frightening at times, but so powerful in the story. The Ghost of the Present time (Ken Robinson) provided mercurial fantasy and his costume was a traveling feast of finery. I imagine that the costume build was big fun. The smoke, haze, candle flame, lighting cues, and the glorious overshadowing of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come solidified the production in all facets for a modern theatrical production.
As entertaining and engaging as ever, Actors Theatre brought me back into my childhood sitting in the audience among my family in the same space years ago watching the timeless holiday classic. The story helps me deal with my (sometimes) bitter-self as well as difficult family members who fit into that classic Scrooge persona. It is the holidays after all, and if Scrooge can be transformed into a more loving person, why can’t I? Why can’t we all? Merry Christmas, God Bless us all and may love and Joy come to you!
Featuring Olivia Allen, Michael Allyn, Kaitlyn Boyer, Leilani Bracey, Joanna Carpenter, Johann George, Peter Hargrave, Noah Keyishian, Teresa Langford, Whit K. Lee, Gabriela Llarena, Kara Mikula, Brendan Miller, John G. Preston, Austin Ramirez, Bailey Ramirez, V. Reibel, Ken Robinson, Kala Ross, Stella Russell, Patrick Steadman Taylor, John Tufts, Lindsey Noel Whiting, and Isaiah J. Williams
A Christmas Carol
November 23 – December 23, 2019
Actors Theatre of Louisville
316 West Main Street
Louisville, Kentucky 40202
Jennifer Starr is a LA (Louisville Area) performer and director that has been involved with Louisville Community Theatre for 11 years. She has a BA in Theatre from EKU and serves on the board of directors for The Mind’s Eye Theatre Company.