BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL Sings at TRINITY REP
First of all, I am a sucker for Dickens' A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I like the Alistair Sim version that you might find close to the holiday. I like the Bill Murray version, Scrooged, set in the present day in the television industry. I like the Muppets' Christmas Carol. How many of you have seen Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol? I thought so. I really have a warm spot in my heart for the adaptations Trinity Rep has produced over the years. You can still hear occasional snatches of music from the Adrian Hall/ Richard Cummings version in this year's production, but what remains is the bones: the simple, moving story of the reclamation and transformation of a wretched, miserable old man.
Okay, so how is this year's version. It is my happy duty to report that once again Trinity has produced a winner, starting with Jude Sandy as Scrooge. As if he did not have enough trouble in his life with losing his mother and being rejected by his father, Sandy's Scrooge is left-handed! He is as snarling and mean-spirited and intimidating as Scrooges get and, after the Spirits do their work, we thoroughly believe in his transformation to "as good a man as the Old City had ever seen.". When Sandy's Scrooge wishes the audience a Merry Christmas at the last, we are only to happy to reciprocate.
Sandy is well supported in his efforts by a talented cast, some Trinity veterans and some relative newcomers. First in my mind was Rachael Warren as Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present. The party at Fezziwig's is always a cheerful part of this story. The choreography here is a lot of fun and Warren takes the lead in an ingeniously staged cup toasting sequence. "Don't try this at home," she warns the audience. Don't worry about me, I thought. As the Ghost, she goes from lively and quick to withering before our eyes. She also lends her beautiful voice to some excellent ensemble singing.
Two other perfomers who distinguished themselves: Taavon Gamble was excellent as Marley, either in spectral or human form. The special effect of Gamble /Marley dragging the "chains he forged in life" up the stairs to Scrooge's bedroom stayed with me. And as to Steven Thorne, when he we called on to be sinister, he was sinister; when called on to be funny, he was funny.
Trinty has tinkered with gender a bit in this production. Scrooge's nephew Fred has become his niece, Frederika (Haley Schwartz), and Fezziwig is now a woman, played by Warren. Is this a nod to how the world is or to how we wish it would be. Either way they did not throw the production off-balance but rather enhanced it.
Two changes in dialogue of which I dis not approve: When Scrooge's fiancée, Belle (Danielle Dorfman) breaks off their engagement she no longer says, "May you be happy in the life you have chosen." Really, Trinity? And some how on Christmas Day, Bob Cratchit (Ricardy Fabre) only asks for half a day off. See your union rep, Bob.
But I quibble. In two hours including intermission, Trinity has created an excellent night of theater filled with fun and pathos. If your Christmas spirit or faith in humanity are flagging, check it out.
Trinity Rep is located at 201 Washington St. in Downtown Providence. The theatre is completely handicap accessible. For tickets call the box office at 401 351 4242 or go to www.trinityrep.com.
Photo by Mark Turek