BWW Review: Joyful A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Annapolis Shakespeare Company Spreads the Message of Christmas
Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL has been a considered a classic almost since the time when it was written. The story of Scrooge's haunted Christmas Eve is composed of everything that makes a story grand - supernatural visions, likeable characters, heart and redemption. It's the perfect tale to read during the holidays, as well as throughout the year. So it only makes sense that Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken at Annapolis Shakespeare Company (ASC) decided to adapt a version of this classic during the Christmas season.
As a fan and as someone who's read it many, many times, I loved ASC's adaptation. It kept the important parts - the ghosts, the Cratchits and Scrooge's grumpiness, and pared down the rest. This allowed the show to move along briskly and kept the audience entertained throughout. One of the best additions to the story were dances and games. The adaptors expanded on the lives of minor characters by including them in finely choreographed and timely waltzes and group dances, as well as Victorian-era party games. This addition expanded on the world of Victorian England where A CHRISTMAS CAROL lives, while also providing movement and fun to the piece which gave the story that most know by heart, new life.
Most would say that the most well-known, and well-loved character in the piece is Ebenezer Scrooge. To be a true example of what Dickens had in mind, Scrooge must be grumpy and gruff, but also; since it is a redemption story, he needs to be redeemable and likeable by the end of the story. After seeing him in a few shows, I had no doubt that Brian Keith MacDonald would be perfect in this role, and he most definitely is. You could tell he enjoyed the gruffness and bah humbugging that makes playing Scrooge so enjoyable. His particular brand of grumpiness was offset perfectly by the kindness and positivity displayed by the characters surrounding him on this one fateful evening. After huffing and hollering throughout the evening, the turn MacDonald made from grumpy Scrooge to overjoyed Scrooge was a fete of comedy. The reactions of the other characters to this quick change were a joy to see.
The three spirits and Jacob Marley's ghost, aside from Scrooge, are always a big hit for fans of the work and were played beautifully to varying degrees of eeriness. Jacob Marley as played by Dexter Hamlett was haunting, and direct. His anger and bravado perfectly set the stage for the three upcoming ghosts. Both the Ghost of Christmas Past played by Bethany Mayo and Present, played by Craig Allen were very different from each other, but still tied together perfectly. Their costuming was ethereal and Christmas-y, using light to really sell the fact that these visions were not of this world. Lastly, the ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, was the most terrifying of all played by Jack Russ. This ghost was modeled after the Grim Reaper, and towered - thanks in no small part to stilts - over Scrooge, making his threats all the more ominous.
Again, ASC has shown forward thinking in their production using projections and technology to set the stage of the spirit world, and Victorian England. Cutouts of the London skyline adorned the back wall of the stage, while cityscapes of England were projected on to the stage, including the school that Scrooge attended, the small office where Scrooge and Cratchit worked and the ominous and unearthly lands of the spirits. These projections with the added use of fog and music, helped to propel the audience into that particular dark and dreary Christmas Eve in England, and made the story all the more real. It was a perfect mix of theatre and technology, which never fails to excite when it's used well.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a classic for a reason, and this production reminds audiences of that. The messages of appreciation of those around you, and that it's never too late to change are much needed in this hectic holiday season. This adaptation does wonders for spreading that message to its audiences, while entertaining them with a beautiful evening of theatre.