BWW Reviews: It's That Time of Year with CHRISTMAS CAROL at A.C.T.
Tradition continues with Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at American Conservatory Theatre, surrounded by the magic of San Francisco tourist hot spots decked out in holiday decor.
A.C.T.'s home-baked production does not serve up the best script or sound design, but it fills the seats year after year thanks to the show's comforting and inviting atmosphere. The musical tunes and moments with snow are short, but memorable, and, as always, bay area favorite James Carpenter returns to play Ebenezer Scrooge. Carpenter's distinctive Scrooge makes a believable transformation from stern loneliness to giddy joy after the three ghosts of Christmas (Blair Busbee, BW Gonzalez and puppetry of sorts) remind him of his past, present and possible future.
Like Scrooge, the production's side set pieces are cold and displeasing to the eye, but the remaining scenic design delights with simple story-book inspired colors and designs, bright and cheery when need-be, and crooked and eery as Scrooge walks home among the fog and ice. Black backdrops crisscross to usher strings of light, carolers, a dark figure and more. And while the various ghosts enter without much build up of excitement (or dread on Scrooge's part), they each possess unique characteristics to make A.C.T.'s production stand out from other versions.
A.C.T. composes its cast with a mixture of professional actors and those pulled from its youth conservatory programs. That choice sometimes means occasional vocals difficult to understand and a Scrooge that changes race as he grows from young boy to young adult to the elderly man who commands the story (all three well played). But the 29 Youth Conservatory actors present in this year's production also contribute a great deal to the charm of "Christmas Carol." They build excitement among young audience members. Besides, who can resist Tiny Tim's "God bless us, everyone"? Plenty of blessings await those who make A.C.T.'s "Christmas Carol" a part of their holiday traditions.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
American Conservatory Theatre
Through Dec 28