BWW Reviews: JACOB MARLEY'S CHRISTMAS CAROL Delivers Energetic New Take On Dickens Classic Now Through Dec 18
After numerous adaptations — films, musicals, Muppets, cartoons — Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" tends to lose its appeal. How many little changes can one make to the script and how many different filming techniques can one use before the same plot and the same dialogue begin to bore? But there's one adaptation that brings a fresh, new side of the classic story: "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol."
This interpretation stays true to the original by incorporating small bits from Dickens' short story, but veers from the original with a new story line that focuses on Ebenezer Scrooge's partner, Jacob Marley. In Sierra Repertory Theatre's production of the re-imagined classic, Scrooge isn't the only one getting a makeover of the heart. Marley was dead to begin with, but what happens to Marley after his death? And what leads him to visit Scrooge? Dickens' readers must read between the lines, or they can attend the hour and a half long play "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol" to learn the answers.
Based on a book of the same name by Tom Mula, "Marley's Christmas Carol" delivers surprising twists and turns as four actors play out various characters including Marley, Scrooge, an old book keeper in the spirit world and a spirit that acts as Marley's guide. The actors narrate the story, occasionally stepping away from the narration to act out parts of the story. The narration, which takes up the majority of the play, has the charm of an energetic, loving father telling his child a bedtime story. Such narration has a strong potential to bore, but thanks to amazing acting and an intriguing story, it compels audiences to pay attention to each word spoken.
As the story progresses, the audience learns that Marley does not immediately learn his lesson the moment chains cover his body. Instead, Marley seeks a way to unlock those chains and earn his freedom, and, in the process, he finds his own redemption, a redemption strongly tied to that of the miserly, "bah humbug" Scrooge. The spirits of Christmas past, present and future are not quite what audiences might think, and they play an equal role in both Scrooge's and Marley's freedom. Both will learn the lessons of Christmas joy and the blessing of a giving, merciful heart.
Jeffrey Edward Peters and and Ty Smith give Marley and Scrooge great spirit and energy as they go from ugly to frightful to joyful souls. With his fun Irish accent, Kevin Shewey adds delightful and humorous bits as Marley's spirit guide, and while John C. Brown's various parts are smaller than those of the other actors, his character voices and facial expressions are just as pleasurable as those of the characters with more stage time.
While the sets remain static, all four actors bring life to the stage as they move about, climbing ladders and rolling about on the floor. The stage, itself, is set up to look like the docks of London. Several props and costumes are left to the imagination, but imagination proves to be no difficult feat with this strong cast. Dramatic lighting from all sides of the stage also adds to the symbolic elements of the staging.
With an outstanding cast, imaginative staging and new story, Sierra Repertory Theatre's production provides a fresh take on Charles Dicken's classic. This Christmas, skip all the remakes and attend "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol."
Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol
Sierra Repertory Theatre
East Sonora Theatre
Now Through December 18