Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Trinity Rep

Production Runs through December 31st

By: Nov. 22, 2023
Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Trinity Rep

The 47th Annual Trinity Repertory's "A Christmas Carol", like many that came before it since its first production in 1977, has an incredible way of evoking the wonderful rebirth of Ebenezer Scrooge while modernizing it to a greater audience. 

Mauro Hantman plays a great fifty-something version of Scrooge, reprising his role he’d last performed in 2010, adding a level of grumpiness that would make Dicken's original Scrooge very proud.  "You are asking me for my money, have the courage to ask for it!" he shouted to the Solicitors for the Poor played by Jackie Davis and Richard Donnelly.  "Comfort is a luxury you must pay for.  Are you willing to pay for it?"

Rodney Witherspoon II plays a formidable Jacob Marley, one of the many characters in the annual performance that stand out in originality and creativeness.  Local theatre artistic director and actor Jeff Church plays an incredible Ghost of Christmas Past, a combination of Liberace and Robin Williams in a white-studded outfit.  My accompanying daughter had never heard of Liberace so she felt the Ghost leaned more toward an Elton John persona. Scrooge denounced the memories being shown from his past when he failed to show any love to his fiancé Bell, played by Sara States, as she walked out on him but craved his love, the Ghost gave Scrooge a dose of reality he had loved to provide to people himself before. “You didn’t say anything to comfort her; you didn’t say anything at all.” Church would also use his great skills later on as the silent and frightful Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. 

Perhaps the greatest performance of the night came from Taavon Gamble, who played an incredibly vibrant Drag Ghost of Christmas Present.  "It must be awful to hear what people really think of you," the Ghost uttered to Scrooge as he took him through the dreary parts of present life with the people in Scrooge's life that he rejected time after time. Fred is Scrooge's niece in the production, played eloquently by Alison Russo, defending her uncle to the last.  "He is my uncle and I will not give up on him.  I will always have a place for him so he knows that he has a family", Fred noted. Russo's beautiful voice belted out one of the productions only songs, "Spread a little happiness"

Like many of the actors who played multiple roles, Phyllis Kay, last year's Ebenezer Scrooge, played a number of heartfelt roles including Dilber, who owed Scrooge money but was trying to care for her ailing sister. In an original twist, Scrooge got to see what it was like for Dilber to care for her dying sister, as the two tried to dance around a Christmas tree though her sister could barely walk. 

Trinity also welcomed 12 young performers from across Southern New England to appear on stage as part of the children's cast who added a slice of humor to the darkness when Scrooge realized he had a second chance on life. When he asked a number of kids outside his house what day it was, they shouted "Stranger danger, let's get out of here!"  When he asked again what day it actually was, they uttered, "It's Christmas Day here on Earth."

As giddy as he had ever been when he learned he hadn't missed Christmas after all, Scrooge would often turn to the audience and this time he asked for ideas on what he could bring to the Cratchit house to make their celebration better and heard things like "Beer" and "Play Station" as well as your normal "mashed Potatoes" or "gravy”, laughing that beer would be great for Bob Cratchit but that he didn’t know what a Play Station was.

Scrooge would go on to make amends with just about everyone in his life, from the Solicitors of the Poor to Dilber, his niece Fred and, of course, the Cratchits.

When asked what he got for Christmas this year, Scrooge reflected a bit on his last 24 hours and said "Something I didn't know I needed and it was perfect."

Chances are you've seen a production or movie of A Christmas Carol over the years but Trinity Rep has a way of making these productions so original that every year is a different and incredibly wonderful experience.  This year’s two hour performance with one intermission is no different and it impacts everyone in the audience, young or old, because it touches on a little bit of everything in our lives and how we should appreciate what we have and never take it for granted and just as important, to always help others who don't have.  

Photo by Mark Turek