BWW Review: Portland Playhouse's A CHRISTMAS CAROL is the Must-See of the Holiday Season
A live performance of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a holiday staple for my family. We've seen it as a straight play, as a musical, and with puppets. After watching Portland Playhouse's delightful production of this classic, I can unequivocally say it's my new favorite (sorry, puppets - you had a long run in 1st).
I was primed to like this show when I learned that Todd Van Voris would be playing Scrooge. He's the perfect pick for the character's requisite combination of heartless avarice and childlike wonder. As soon as he uttered his first drawn-out "Bah," in his deep voice, it was clear my high expectations would be met.
This production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL has everything you could want - a great script, a superb cast with excellent direction, and plenty of theatre magic.
The trouble I find with many adaptations of books into plays is an over-reliance on narration, which makes the performance feel disjointed. This is not at all a problem here. Rick Lombardo's adaptation gives us a good deal of Dickens, well balanced with dialogue, action, and even some original music. The direction, by Brian Weaver and Cristi Miles, moves the play along quickly so that there's never a dull moment.
All of the actors do double, triple, and sometimes quadruple duty in this visually dazzling show - as characters, musicians, noisemakers, and even bedposts. And the creative team supplies enough bells and whistles that you'll be surprised at how often you're surprised by this story you already know so well.
I found that some clever casting even made me see some aspects of the story in a whole new light - in particular, the casting of Rachel Lewis as both the Ghost of Christmas Past and Belle (Scrooge's long-ago love interest), as well as of Charles Grant as both the Ghost of Christmas Present and Scrooge's nephew, Fred.
From beginning to end, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is full of warm-heartedness and joy. I watched the whole play with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat and loved every minute of it.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 30. When you go, resist the temptation to hang out too long in the reception area. Instead, take your seat early so you can enjoy the pre-show music performed by the cast. Details and tickets here.
Photo credit: Brud Giles