Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Geva Theatre

What did our critic think of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Geva Theatre?

By: Dec. 04, 2023
Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Geva Theatre
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As someone who covers theatre I’m always a bit apprehensive as the holiday season approaches each year, because having seen “A Christmas Carol” more times than I can possibly count, I fear that I won’t have something new to say; the story is 180 years old after all, so at this point there aren’t many new angles to explore.  We all know the plot, the themes, and in the case of Geva’s production, can probably hum the tune of Fezziwig’s Christmas party in our sleep. And yet, each year I find myself noticing something new, appreciating a new feature of the staging or set, and leaving the theatre after curtain call with a renewed sense of Christmas spirit. It’s a testament to the power of this story, but also to the care and precision that Geva’s artistic staff takes in mounting the production each year.

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 (Michael Preston), an elderly curmudgeon and local creditor who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Deven Kolluri) and the spirits of Christmas Past (Julia Mantell/Ellie Moritz), Present (Kilty Reidy) 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.

As always, the cast of Geva’s “Carol” is a blend of professionals and locals, bringing together veteran stage actors from NYC and around the country and pairing them with local children, college theatre majors, and performers from the community. Of particular note this year is Esther O. Winter, a local actor and director, picking up the mantle of Mrs. Cratchit/Mrs. Fezziwig and bringing her own festive spin to two of the story’s most important roles.

And while Joel Blum, Geva’s Fezziwig for many years, is notably absent this year, equally up to the task is Kilty Reidy, whose Fezziwig (and Ghost of Christmas Present) is the perfect manifestation of boisterousness, silliness, and joy.

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 stalwart Don Kott; adaptation from Geva’s longtime Artistic Director Mark Cuddy (though now mounted by new Artistic Director Elizabeth Williamson, after Cuddy’s retirement in 2022);  and a bountiful cast who---aside from the handful of lead roles---are Rochester actors. Special shoutout to all the SUNY  Geneseo students and young child performers from across Rochester’s schools who help make this production so special.

Like many Rochesterians, Geva’s annual production of “The Christmas Carol” is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and this year’s iteration is just as joyous and entertaining as ever. It’s playing until December 30th, for tickets and more information click here.