BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Portland Playhouse
If you happened to be at Portland Playhouse for A CHRISTMAS CAROL last Thursday, you might have noticed a woman in the front row who started crying about 5 minutes in. That was me, once again being pierced straight through the heart by this perfect piece of theatre.
Charles Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL is world's most famous fictional ghost story. It has been adapted a gazillion times (if you have some time to kill, check them out on Wikipedia), and while I certainly haven't seen anywhere near all of them, I'm still willing to declare this one, by Rick Lombardo and Anna Lackaff, one of the best.
Directed by Brian Weaver, the Portland Playhouse production is sensational -- full of wonder and joy. Even seeing it for the fourth time, I cowered in my seat when Scrooge yelled at the men collecting alms for the poor, got shivers up my spine during Marley's scene, and felt downright giddy when Scrooge woke up to discover he hadn't missed Christmas after all.
If you're familiar with this production, you'll know that there's always a different Scrooge. This year, everyone's favorite miser is played by Michael Mendelson, who is hands-down the best Scrooge in my experience. The depth of emotion Mendelson is able to convey with the subtlest look or gesture is unparalleled. It's his fault I started crying in the first 5 minutes -- I can usually hold it together until the second half. Other new faces include Melissa Mahoney, Delaney Barbour, and Lauren Vander Aarde, while the returning cast members include Ben Tissell, Laila Murphy, and, in the roles of Marley and all three spirits, Cycerli Ash, who shines so brightly I'm convinced she's lit from the inside.
I look forward to A CHRISTMAS CAROL every year. Not only is it a beautiful show, but its message -- the pursuit of money leads to an empty life; compassion and generosity, to a full one -- is more important now than ever. Judging from past years, the run is likely to sell out. So, if you don't have your tickets yet, get them now.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL plays through December 29. More details and tickets here.