BWW Review: Tradition Moves Forward with Hale Centre Theatre's A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Hale Centre Theatre's A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a Utah holiday tradition, and now it continues on in splendid fashion at the Sorenson Legacy Jewel Box Theatre within the theatre's new Mountain America Performing Arts Centre in Sandy.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (book by Melany M. and Richard G. Wilkins, original musical score by Barlow Bradford) is an adaptation of Charles Dickens' beloved novel that is the special creation of Hale Centre Theatre. It is a faithful retelling of miser Ebenezer Scrooge's visit by three spirits, who teach him the true meaning of Christmas.
This version is a play with music that features carols from the period. Every now and then, the choices and placement are a bit perplexing (for example, why do carolers randomly appear in Scrooge's bedchambers to sing "Deck the Halls" when the song would have been a better choice for Fezziwig's party than the current "Bring a Torch, Jeanette Isabella"?). However, for the most part, the song choices and orchestrations add interest to the storytelling and invite a lovely spirit to the proceedings. The memorable "Good Christian Men" finale is especially apropos and uplifting.
Stephen Kerr (double cast with David Weekes) is a marvel as Scrooge. Having played the role for many years, he has every crotchety remark and sour expression down to an art without seeming rehearsed. His character's transformation is believably nuanced with beaming, gratifying results.
Alyssa Buckner (double cast with Jackie Spendlove) is an ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past, and David Stensrud (double cast with DRU) brings both light and shade to the Ghost of Christmas Present.
The cast's singing is rich and full, with music director Anne Puzey deserving of praise.
In a departure for Hale Centre Theatre, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has been staged on a proscenium thrust stage rather than in the round. The blocking is occasionally slightly awkward as long-time director John Sweeney and the actors still seem to be getting used to the shift. However, the change is otherwise very successful.
The set by Kacey Udy, which fits snugly in the space, feels both grand and intimate and is cleverly used to keep the story moving along. The lighting design by Josh Roberts brings beauty befitting the message, but also a slew of special effects that delight. When the detailed costume design by Kristy Draper is added, the visual production evokes a sense of seasonal wonder that is perfectly paired with the show's inspirational nature.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Sorenson Legacy Jewel Box Theatre will continue to be a prized tradition for Utah families for many years to come.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL plays through December 23, 2017. For tickets, call the box office at 801-984-9000 or visit www.hct.org.
Photo Credit: Hale Centre Theatre