BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Charms Again at Trinity Rep
Trinity Rep's annual A CHRISTMAS CAROL production is always delightful in new and exciting ways. This year, they've partnered with 56 choirs from Rhode Island (and a few from Massachusetts) to make each show unique and feature even more local talent. This is a lovely addition to the classic story, and another way that Trinity manages to give this play something new year after year. Set in a classic Victorian backdrop, this year's production features lots of singing and dancing, and some pretty fantastic effects and performances.
Stephen Thorne is this year's Ebenezer Scrooge, and he has a softer interpretation of this famously flinty character. Instead of portraying Scrooge as an evil man, Thorne's take has him acting more like someone who just wants to be left alone, to the point where he literally runs from children on several occasions. This more moderate take on Scrooge makes Act I of the play considerably more funny, and a bit more cartoonish--he literally chucks a bag of laundry at Mrs. Dilber, his washerwoman played by Tanya Anderson. In fact, this whole production really doubles down on the family-friendly aspects of the story, in a bit of contrast to the somewhat darker version presented last year (that Thorne co-directed with Angela Brazil).
There are still some scary moments that might be unsettling for very young viewers, but there are also some very cool effects that will have everyone the edge of his or her seat. It's hard to top the flying bed from last year's show, but Mauro Hantman's introduction as the ghost of Jacob Marley is pretty spectacular and jarring enough that one can easily see why Scrooge takes Marley's warning seriously.
The story seems a bit pared down this year as well, but in a way that still hits all the right plot points. Scrooge is a miserly man who meets three ghosts on Christmas Eve, and then has a revelation--that's all there, but what's gone is some of the other details that round out the story a bit more. Honestly, they're not missed too much, and what we're left with is a tight two hour production that's heavy on the dancing and singing, but that still hits all the emotional notes. Act I feels a bit like a whirlwind of songs, snow and special effects, culminating with the first meeting with the Ghost of Christmas Present (Fred Sullivan Jr.); then Act II gets a bit darker with a very sinister Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come played by Addison Ralphs (Sophie Appel on other nights--there are two children's casts).
Set in the round, the theatre feels delightfully Dickensian with Michael McGarty's set and Gary Lennon's costumes harmonizing perfectly to create just the right ambience. The women in this cast, even those in minor roles bring plenty of personality and laughs to the story as well. In particular Octavia Chavez-Richmond, as a Mrs. Cratchit who is thoroughly fed up with Scrooge's miserly ways; and María Gabriela Rosado González doing double duty as Scrooge's fiance' Belle and his less-than-enthusiastic cook.
Trinity's A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition for many, and a delight for all. While this year wasn't as much of a tear-jerker as past productions, it still shines a light on how good it feels to be a good person, which is something everyone needs reminding of now and then.
PROVIDENCE, RI: Trinity Repertory Company presents A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with original music by Richard Cumming. Directed by Mark Valdez. Performances run November 8 - December 30. Tickets are on sale by phone at (401) 351-4242, online at www.TrinityRep.com, or in person at the theater's box office at 201 Washington Street, Providence.
Photo: Louis Reyes McWilliams as Fred and Stephen Thorne as Ebenezer Scrooge Photo by Mark Turek