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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Delaware Theatre Company - A Very, Merry Holiday Treat Indeed

John Plumpis as Scrooge and Jeffrey C. Hawkins as Bob Cratchit. (Photo courtesy of Matt Urban/Mobius New Media)

A CHRISTMAS CAROL: Is a very, merry holiday treat indeed.

Delaware Theatre Company's holiday offering, A CHRISTMAS CAROL, not only surpassed non-musical production tickets sales of last season's hit, THE EXPLORERS CLUB, but is on track to meet (and, perhaps beat) sales for a few of its best musical productions. Merry Christmas to you, DTC!

Now, before you go thinking that no one needs to sit through another version of the same old Dickens story, think again. A CHRISTMAS CAROL as adapted by Patrick Barlow is anything but the same old show. Theater goers may recall Barlow as being the genius behind the 2005 adaptation of a hilarious four-actor version of THE 39 STEPS. If you enjoyed the fast-paced, actor-altering, multi-faceted comedy of THE 39 STEPS, then Merry Christmas to you, courtesy of DTC. Barlow's adaption of the classic story delights in so many ways, one can't help but to be of good cheer.

The story hasn't changed. The old, miserly curmudgeon, Ebenezer Scrooge, cares for nothing but himself and his money. Moreover, Scrooge detests Christmas. On this particular Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts, starting with his old business partner, Jacob Marley. The three spirits which follow, the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Yet to Come, succeed in showing Scrooge the error of his ways. Scrooge wakes on Christmas morning relieved to discover that there is still time for him to change and we see him transform into a generous and kindhearted human being. However...

This being an adaption, there are a few bits, here and there, that may not be "actual" storyline. A particular bit humorously caught me off-guard. I won't spoil the surprise. Let's simply say you'll be looking around to see what your fellow theatergoers are doing so as not to rise from your seat too soon. And, if you have a center front row ticket, Scrooge just might work you into a part of his scene.

To properly stage A CHRISTMAS CAROL a director needs to cast upwards of 20+ actors to portray the myriad of characters, including young actors to play children and the iconic Tiny Tim. Not so in the case of Barlow's adaption. As originally written and performed, the cast totaled a concise five actors - one for Scrooge and four to play everyone else. Director Steve Tague expands this cast by two (Betsy Rosen & Michael Boudewyns) to assist with puppeteer duties, set changes and a dumb show curtain speech. Scrooge is always Scrooge while the other four main actors each embody at least ten characters. What this means is there are A LOT of quick changes of very elaborate, period appropriate costumes (Barbara Hughes). Kudos to the cast for superb execution of such feats. The efficiently sparse scenic design (Stefanie Hansen) allows for lighting (Matthew Richards), a few projections and a clever clock (Anthony Sorantino) to enhance the overall look without competing with the actors. The pace of Act 1 slipped off a bit but was reinstated and sustained through Act 2, making the two hour run time negotiable for younger audience members.

Such an imagining of A CHRISTMAS CAROL requires highly-skilled, agile performers who can create believable characters in a split second. The base ensemble of Jeffrey C. Hawkins, Claire Inie-Richards, Eleni Delopoulos and Jonathan Silver do just that and more. Never once did I find myself thinking about them as a previous character. From change of clothes to change of hair, right down to different body posturing and varying accents, each character is enjoyably unique. I especially appreciated John Plumpis because of his non-conventional Scrooge. Mr. Plumpis takes a more discreet approach in that he doesn't constantly scowl, bellow, or behave as an outright mean, old nasty man. His statements are not merely beliefs but facts (at least to him) without need for explanation. And, at all the right times, he's genuinely funny. The cohesiveness of the ensemble is on point with fluid, though at times, organic execution.

A trip to see A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a long-held tradition for many families, and perhaps you and yours have already made that pilgrimage. Lovers of the "old chestnut" variation of the novella may feel a bit overwhelmed or disappointed by this rebooted version. Bah, humbug to them. I suggest you gather up the family once more to experience Mr. Barlow's adaption as presented by the brilliant cast of Delaware Theatre Company. If you don't already have tickets, get them soon because shows are selling out, even with added performances.

By Charles Dickens
A New Adaption by Patrick Barlow
Directed by Steve Tague
Delaware Theater Company
200 Water Street
Wilmington, DE 19801
(302) 594-1100

Runs December 7 through December 30
Ticket Prices: $20 - $65

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