BWW Review: Theatre in the Park's A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a Joyful, Poignant, Telling Reminder of What Christmas is About

BWW Review: Theatre in the Park's A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a Joyful, Poignant, Telling Reminder of What Christmas is About

"Every year around this time of year, people come to hear the story..."

And that's the way it's been for the last 43 years as audiences have come to see the Theatre in the Park production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL and Ira David Wood III as Scrooge. The show opens this Wednesday at the Durham Performing Arts Center.

Woods' version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL follows the traditional Dickens story, with some humorous present-day references. A miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. The apparitions are a telling reminder of Christmases past and present and a foreshadowing of the future.

It's hard to imagine anybody other than Wood playing the part of Scrooge. His performance is legendary and one rooted in Theatre in the Park's history, if not the history of Raleigh itself. With every movement, detestable outcry, and joke, he captures the essence of Scrooge. But he also wholeheartedly reveals Scrooge's vulnerable side, particularly during the second act when his character is visited by Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.

Truly one of the show's highlights is watching Wood share the stage with David Henderson who cunningly plays Jacob Marley. The repartee between these two stage veterans is priceless and akin to watching two old friends meet up at their high school reunion or something. And it's no wonder since the ebullient Henderson has been the Marley to Wood's Scrooge for over 20 years.

A pint-sized Jane Fitzpatrick plays the Ghost of Christmas Past. Part Matilda, part Glinda the Good, she is simply adorable and confidently holds her own against Wood. Of course, Fitzpatrick's ghost reminds Scrooge of happier times, which prompts a dreamy ballet sequence gracefully performed during the Raleigh run of the show by Carolina Ballet dancer Kathleen Black.

Perhaps one of the more poignant moments of this production, if not one of the more personal ones for Wood, comes during Scrooge's gaze at the present. It is here that David Moore, who is reprising his role as Bob Cratchit, sings a lovely lullaby to Tiny Tim, played by Grayson Gutekunst. The song itself was inspired by the passing of Wood's father, who died when Wood was barely a teenager. To hear more of the story behind this touching song watch an excerpt from my Broadway World interview with Wood on my Instagram TV channel @onlyalurenart.

But the 11 o'clock number belongs to the Ghost of Christmas Present played by a soulful John Shearer. Shearer's deep baritone voice is captivating and he ushers in the Ghost of Christmas Present and an Elvis inspired sing-along led by Wood, which brings the audience to their feet.

Directed by Wood, this is a big, bold, glorious production featuring a cast of almost 100, a sprawling set, and original music. Wood is indubitably a Raleigh treasure and his adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL feels more like a love letter to the Triangle than another stodgy retelling of the Dickens classic. It's a joyful, touching reminder of what the season is all about, and whether you are seeing this production for the first time or the 44th, it's a holiday mainstay that shouldn't be missed.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs December 12th - 16th at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Note, the part of Scrooge will be played by Ira David Wood IV at select performances. For more information visit:

https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/theatre-in-the-parks-a-christmas-carol.

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From This Author Lauren Van Hemert

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