BWW Review: The Fulton Offers A Happy, Family-Friendly CHRISTMAS CAROL
Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL was published in 1843, and in one version or another it's been the classic tale of Christmas spirit ever since. Whether in writing, in numerous film versions, or in multiple stage versions, it's a perennial Christmas event for many if not most people.
There's only one little teeny problem with it, if you're a family with small children - the Victorians had a much greater enjoyment of scariness for the young than we do, and children have run and have hidden from parts of A CHRISTMAS CAROL for decades, especially when meeting a silent, skeletal Christmas Future creature. And it can be long, even if not scary, when you're with children who want to go to the bathroom when Mommy wants to see and hear Sir Patrick Stewart in person, thank you very much.
Fortunately, Fulton artistic director Marc Robin and partner Curt Dale Clark are experts at cutting long stories down to around an hour, and writing cute, snappy if not memorable, songs that everyone can enjoy. Their family productions are watchable if not deep - and they're not intended to be too deep. They're inventive, attention-holding ways to get younger children to not just sit through but to appreciate live theatre, while not insulting teens and not boring adults. A CHRISTMAS CAROL is right in that vein, and a thoroughly pleasant way to spend a Christmas-season Saturday noon. There's time to take the family to lunch and get back home or out shopping once the show's over.
David Girolmo is a perfectly Scroogy Ebenezer Scrooge - not intentionally evil, but greedy and penny-pinching, with no clue that he could or should be any other way, even though he was never like this when younger. StephanieJo Wise's Ghost of Christmas Past is perky and full of cheer, even as Scrooge was once, until making money became more important to him than friends and family.
Paul Aguirre's Ghost of Christmas Present (yes, he's a Christmas present) is a bit more determined, since Scrooge is currently in the midst of unhappiness, but he sets a pair of footloose elves to showing Scrooge how he could be happy right now - and they're going to make him sing if it kills them. It's hard to be unhappy when you're singing cheery holiday songs, as Scrooge finds out, even if some of them aren't exactly Christmas music. It's safe to say that you haven't lived until you've seen Santa's elves singing and dancing to Hanukkah songs. And watching Ebenezer Scrooge, at the hands of the Ghost of Christmas Present, singing "Jingle Bells" is itself worth the price of admission.
But wait, there's still more - a sassy, bad-ass Ghost of Christmas Future played neatly by fifth-grader and Fulton vet Amelia Ritrievi. Far from being skeletal and silent, she's able to give Scrooge what-for as she lets him see the course of events if he continues in his miserly ways.
The usual suspects of the Fulton's Family Series productions are present - Andrew Kindig directs, while Randall Frizado is a sympathetic Bob Cratchitt, caught with his hand in the coal bin again at the office, and with arms around his beloved Tiny Tim at home. Katie Sina and StephanieJo Wise both take several parts, from elves to good citizens of London.
At the Fulton Theatre through the 29th, and a sure bet for the Cindy Lou Who of the family and the other small ones, who can laugh through the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his mending of his ways while still learning the point of the tale. Fortunately, in Robin's and Clark's hands, a retelling that's satisfying to small children can still be adult-friendly, so don't worry that taking the children of the family will feel like an obligation rather than a pleasure. Visit thefulton.org for tickets and information