Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Portland Playhouse

This magical production runs through Dec. 30.

By: Nov. 30, 2023
Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Portland Playhouse

Every year, I look forward to Portland Playhouse’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL – it’s the official start of my holiday season – and every year, I’m surprised and delighted by the way it continues to surprise and delight me. The play, by Rick Lombardo with music by Anna Lackaff, is the perfect adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, and the heartfelt production, directed this year by Charles Grant, is truly magical. There is no better way to get into the holiday spirit.

This year’s Scrooge is Lester Purry, who Portland Playhouse audiences will recognize from excellent performances in the recent shows THURGOOD and WHAT I LEARNED IN PARIS. He’s a wonderful Scrooge. At the beginning, he is the epitome of repressed emotion – he doesn’t even need to raise his voice to terrify poor Bob Cratchit (Delphon “DJ” Curtis Jr.) – which makes his ultimate transformation all the more impactful.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL is very much an ensemble show. I lost count of how many characters there are, and every actor – aside from Purry, who has his hands full already – fills multiple roles. This year’s ensemble includes several familiar faces as well as many I hope we will get to see a lot more of in the future. Standouts include Benjamin Tissell, who, in addition to being the musical director is also reprising his roles as Jacob Marley and all of the ghosts; local jazz and soul celeb Lauren Steele as Young Scrooge, among others, who also leads the cast in pre-show carols (any day I get to hear Steele sing is a good day); Claire Rigsby, who melts into every character she plays; and Elleon Dobias, a multi-talented multi-instrumentalist who improvises carols on-demand and has a stage presence that could light the darkest corner; and Inara Elorreaga, who played Tiny Tim at my performance.

Though Portland Playhouse does this version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL every year, it’s always a bit different. Charles Grant has made it his own, using humor and highlighting some very lovely moments, like when Ebenezer and Belle meet for the first time. We weren’t far into Act I when the first tears started to make their way down my cheeks.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 30. Take your whole family, all your friends, and anyone you know who may need a little extra dose of joy this holiday season. Details and tickets here.