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Review: Portland Stage Perseveres with A CHRISTMAS CAROL


Review: Portland Stage Perseveres with A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Forced to cancel its holiday production of Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL because of Covid issues, Portland Stage has forged ahead and created a digital-on-demand version to bring some cheer to audiences. The streamlined and re-imagined production, directed by Sally Wood. is captured effectively in Mical Huston's video editing and serves to keep the Christmas message of this perennial favorite alive.

Portland Stage has a long tradition of presenting this retelling of the Dickens' classic each year, and the current production retains all the beloved familiar elements such as the children's company, the evocative sets by Anita Stewart, and the artfully interwoven Dickens' text with Christmas carols and a piano underscoring, played beautifully by Shane Van Vliet. The current incarnation has been tightened considerably from prior years, using an Equity cast of seven principals who also double as minor characters and chorus and an alternating children's company to fill out the roster.

In Wood's direction, the interaction between chorus/narration and dramatized scenes flows seamlessly just as the music seems to organically grow from the text. Stewart's set with its lattice side walls and large moving props, such as Scrooge's curtained bed (which flies at one point), captures the warm, dark Victorian hues of the candlelit interiors and the gray, mysterious, vaporous world of the spirits. Bryon Winn reinforces this dichotomy in his lighting, as does Christ Fitze in the sound design, and both do an excellent job of creating a supernatural aura even on the video. Susan Thomas' costumes depict the era perfectly.

Tom Ford makes a very human Scrooge - more misguided than monster - and his gradual transformation is credible and poignant. Alex Purcell is terrifying as the ghost of Jacob Marley, and limns several other minor characters effectively. Dustin Tucker is a touching Bob Crachit - subservient at work, but full of a gentle joy at home, and he manages to make the family Christmas scene and his palpable love for Tiny Tim a truly uplifting experience. Marcy McGuigan effectively details three different Ghosts, making the Ghost of Christmas Present a sassy Scotswoman. Jared Mongeau provides compelling contrast as the optimistic, cheerful, kind Nephew Fred. Reanne Acasio delivers a strong scene as Belle, Young Scrooge's fiancée, and is charming as Fred's wife. Samantha Rosentrater is a motherly Mrs. Crachit.

The two children's companies (normally alternating performances) have been edited into this video so each youngster has some screen time. The well-rehearsed locals are: Seamus Bailey, Quinn Fisher, Dillo0n Jenkins, Lyra Legawiec, Wyn McBee, Page Scale, Marsden Shetterly, Henry Trowbridge, Tucker Wood, Daphne Zeger.

Portland Stage deserves kudos for persevering and preserving this popular holiday tradition in this digital version. While we all wish them a speedy return to live performance, we are grateful for their commitment to their art and their community.

Review: Portland Stage Perseveres with A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Photos courtesy of Portland Stage, Mical Huston, photographer

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is available on-demand from December 18-January 7 at

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