REVIEW: A Christmas Carol

What a time for this type of redemption story, truly.  I couldn’t help but reflect on the idea that even the oldest of stories can be new again if the themes remain relevant.  The redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge offers hope that even the scariest curmudgeon can ultimately change if taught enough empathy.

The Playhouse in the Park’s 26th annual production of this Christmas classic once again delights with its high production values, incredible performances, and healthy dose of holiday cheer.  My favorite thing about this show is taking someone new every year and watching their reactions as they discover the physicality of Bruce Cromer as Scrooge, the joy of the Fezziwigs, and the intense, dark special effects that lead to Scrooge’s transformation.  My friend was impressed.

Having seen the show for several years, its fun to look for new things to write about.  This year I kept going back to the amazing direction by Michael Evan Haney and how well paced the show is.  Several moments require impecable time, from those in the booth (kudos to stage manager Andrea Shell and her team) and on stage, too.  Watching Cromer interact with people who cannot see him with such precision is a marvel.

The principal cast members are very talented.  Cromer has remarkable energy; I don’t know if I’ll ever see another actor play Scrooked as well. Douglas Rees and Annie Fitzpatrick lighten things up as the Fezziwigs, while Kelly Mengelkoch anchors her scenes with Ryan Wesley Gilreath as they celebrate Christmas with restrictions caused by poverty.  Kathleen Wise returns for her second year as the “Ghost of Christmas Past” and “Mrs. Peak,” while  newcomers Sara Masterson and John Skelley bring romance and heartbreak as “Belle” and “Mature Scrooge,” while veteran Greg Proaccacino seems to have an extra hop in his step as “Marley” and “Old Joe.”  Comforting is the presence of Nicholas Rose and Stephen Skiles as our narrators, as is the return of Craig Wesley Divino as “Fred.”  Rounding out the cast is the group of Bruce E. Coyle interns and several local children.

Dee Anne Bryll’s time-appropriate choreography is intact again this year as are the vocal directions by Rebecca N. Childs.   David B. Smith’s sound design is festive yet terrifying when necessary.  Costumes by  David Marin are perfect and the lighting design by Kirk Bookman directs our eyes where they should be and adds so much to the atmosphere of the gorgeous and multi-purpose set by James Leonard Joy.

If you’ve never seen A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Playhouse in the Park this is the year to go.  It’s an infinitely watchable production.  And it’s the perfect kick-off to a holiday season where we may need a little extra hope.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 31st at the Playhouse in the Park.  Click here for more information.