BWW Review: A Noise Within Rings in the Holidays with A CHRISTMAS CAROL's Cautionary Tale
Of all the holiday stories written, it would be hard to find one more well-known or popular than Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. The redemption of a miser named Scrooge whose heart has forgotten the meaning of charity has been adapted, musicalized, spoofed, and dramatized in every medium imaginable, and, like all good cautionary tales, returns as a warning each December. In these trying times, its message about the importance of caring for one's fellow man is as necessary as ever.
A Noise Within remounts its version of the holiday comfort food classic, starring Geoff Elliott as Scrooge, for the sixth year in a row. The adaptation is also by Elliott, who co-directs with wife, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, and the production features many familiar faces from among the company's pool of resident artists.
Deborah Strang bustles in as the whimsical Ghost of Christmas Past looking like a child's birthday cake topper, amid layers and layers of white flouncy ruffles. Jeremy Rabb, who plays Marley for the first half of the run, dons a fright wig and tattered suit bound with rag-strewn chains extending dramatically up into the balcony. And, as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Stephen Weingartner's elaborately-festooned robe adorned with a Thanksgiving feast's worth of fruit, autumn leaves, and even a miniature pumpkin, looks more like a mechanical set piece when he rolls in than merely a textile from the costume department.
These are looks that make a statement in a production that unabashedly prides itself on its colorful pageantry. But you can't act the costumes. Without a deeper dive into the soul of the characters you end up with a perfectly nice, generally adequate telling of the story; layers and layers of fluff but nothing underneath. To be unmoved by A CHRISTMAS CAROL is disappointing indeed.
It's up to narrator Frederick Stuart (better known to ANW audiences as Freddy Douglas) to inject a sense of warmth in the tale, which he does with sincerity and a knowing twinkle in his eye. His short preludes to the five scenes are pleasing additions that successfully draw the audience in.
Add some shadowy Victorian touches in the scenic and lighting designs by Jeanine A. Ringer and Ken Booth, respectively, to go with those wonderful costumes by Angela Balogh Calin and the pictures play like scene capsules sprung from the pages of a Dickensian pop-up book.
Still, even if some of the performances get glossed over, the moment Scrooge shows up at his nephew's (Rafael Goldstein) door and says, "Will you let me in, Fred?" don't be surprised if you feel a lump in your throat or a tear in your eye. Reconciliation restores the hardest of hearts, especially at Christmas time.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
December 1 - 23, 2017
A Noise Within
3352 East Foothill Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91107
Photo credit: Craig Schwartz