BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Geva Theatre
It's that time of year again. Time for cookies and eggnog, wrapping presents and hanging mistletoe, the relentless barrage of "Dominic the Donkey" and "Santa, Baby". Love them or hate them, the Christmas season is a time for traditions, and one tradition that helps nullify the dredge of office holiday parties and Eastview Mall pandemonium is one that all of us Rochesterians treasure: A Christmas Carol at Geva Theatre, which first premiered on the theatre's Wilson Mainstage in 2010.
This staged version of A Christmas Carol is, of course, based on the timeless novella by Charles Dickens from 1843 that recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Guy Paul), an elderly curmudgeon and local creditor who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Garfield Hammonds) and the spirits of Christmas Past (Clara Gillespie), Present (Joel Blum) and Yet to Come. The various spirits remind him of the people and events that shaped him, show the misery he's inflicting on his neighbors and relations, and foretell of his legacy after death if he doesn't learn to let love into his heart. After the celestial visits, Scrooge is transformed into a kinder, gentler man, learning the true meaning of the joyous Christmas season.
Seasoned stage and screen actor Guy Paul returns as Scrooge in the role he originated in Geva's 2010 premiere and has played in almost every subsequent production. This is no hot take (critics gush over him every year), but Guy's Scrooge is endlessly perfect in every way, from the greedy crank in the early scenes to the man who's hysterical with joy at the end. Those who have seen Guy in productions past will note that his performance is always fresh and just a little bit different. His many years as Scrooge have served him well, as he notes "the last few years I find I barely need to glance at the lines, and once I take the first few steps in rehearsal, the role comes flooding back into my mind and body. This gives me the luxury to forget about what comes next, to truly live through each moment on stage."
Guy isn't the only acting talent on stage, to be sure. Other notable standouts include Tony nominee Joel Blum, whose Mr. Fezziwig is boisterous and spirited; Tess Deflyer, who plays Scrooge's long lost love Belle; and Robert Adelman Hancock, whose Fred-Scrooge's nephew-is full of wit and humor.
The true magic of Geva's Christmas Carol comes from the knowledge that it's a Rochester manifestation, born and raised (almost) entirely locally. While many-if not most-versions of the holiday classic seen on stages around the region and country are canned productions that travel from city-to-city, Geva's Carol features sets designed and built by Geva production staff; music by longtime Geva stalwarts Don Kott and Gregg Coffin; and a bountiful cast who-aside from the handful of lead roles-are Rochester actors. SUNY Geneseo student Sydney Lyons (Ensemble) says "I feel so honored to have the opportunity to share the stage with such experienced actors...every day I go to rehearsal and I am so grateful to be there in the room. I am inspired every day by all these outstanding performers who give it their all and remind me why I want to do this for the rest of my life. "
Geva Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol is, once again, a holiday treat for the whole family that will carry you through the holiday season and remind you of the true meaning of Christmas. It plays until December 29th; for tickets and more information, click here.
P.S- Be sure to bring a few dollars to slip into the collection hats after the show, when younger cast members will be taking your donations for Geva's "Home for the Holidays" performance, a free night of A Christmas Carol for active duty men, women, and veterans and their families.