BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Dallas Theater Center
The holidays in Dallas would not be complete without the gorgeously wrapped trees of Mockingbird, Mariah Carey, and a production of A Christmas Carol. For at least ten years now, Dallas Theatre Center has brought the wintry story to life right in the heart of balmy Texas. Though the adaptation isn't the most dramaturgically sound, the production is flashy and fun, especially for young families.
A Christmas Carol directed by Lee Trull runs just over 90 minutes, squeezing the Dicken's piece into a tight one-act. This is not the Alan Menken musical some may recognize from other venues, but rather an original adaptation that slides Ebenezer Scrooge (here Brad Leland of Friday Night Lights fame) into the center of industrial London. He is a factory owner instead of a money-lender, and the story is dotted with traditional, literal carols performed diagetically instead of standard musical theatre fair. We follow miserly Mr. Scrooge on his familiar journey, led by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, toward holiday joy. DTC's story of redemption and charity is certainly a spectacle, with stunning lighting and clever set design - the pageantry does not disappoint and is sure to delight most theatregoers. Still, this year's production left me feeling possibly less like caroling than in years past.
Whether this is the warm weather or the show is anyone's guess, though I do think part of this feeling involves that compared to last year's bold gender reversal of Scrooge, this season's show felt a little... expected. That said, Leland brings an earnest Scrooge to the stage, and is clearly enjoying every moment of the old "humbug" character. There are some really strong singers joining him, with Beth Lipton's Ghost of Christmas Past and Jahi Keare's Ghost of Christmas Present. Both are fun to watch, and better to listen to. DTC Brierly Resident Acting Company Members Chamblee Ferguson (Bob Cratchit), Tiana Kaye Johnson (Mrs. Dilber/Mrs. Fezziwig), and Alex Orgon (Fred) round out the principal cast alongside Kristen Lee (Belle/Lucy) and Will Power (Marley). All are enjoyable, though many suffer from inconsistent or overshot dialects.
Perhaps the most noticeable changes to the show were insertion of Scrooge into each of the ghost's visits. In the "past" sequence, for instance, Scrooge and the ghost often sit back while a "Young Scrooge" character appears. This year's show chose to showcase Leland more by having his adult Scrooge perform all functions. This would work fine on paper, though given the lines indicating that the figures in the dreams "have no consciousness" of Scrooge and the ghosts seem to undermine his interaction in each scene. The final surprise comes with an encore I won't spoil here. The number is certainly flashy, and kids will love it - though following an otherwise streamlined show, it felt out of place and slightly confused.
The most impressive part of the evening though, was that this year marks the 10th anniversary of DTC's partnership with the North Texas Food Bank to raise money to feed families and people in need around the metroplex. After each show the cast invites donations from the audience, with each dollar providing three meals for someone in need. DTC's A Christmas Carol is a definitely a holiday staple, but the work they do with NTFB is the real Christmas miracle.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 28th at the Wyly Theatre. For tickets and information dallastheatrecenter.org.