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BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at ACT

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A stunner of a production filled to the brim with joy.

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at ACT
Chip Sherman and Amy Thone in
A Christmas Carol at ACT.
Photo credit: Howard Shack

Dear Readers, let's set the way-back machine to 1976, when a fledgling theater, ACT, put up their inaugural production of "A Christmas Carol". Now I don't know if I was at that one, but I very clearly remember being taken to the theater at around 7 or 8 years old to see "A Christmas Carol" at ACT when they were still down in Queen Anne. I remember being awe struck by the wizardry they could create on stage. Leaning over to my mom and asking, "How did that ghost just walk through the wall?" and my mom, being a good theater Mom saying, "Shhh, I'll tell you after." And thus began my love for theater. Now, several decades and one hiatus due to the pandemic later and ACT is back with that staple of holiday fare. And it's just as magical as it ever was with a few updates to keep it up to the times.

From the moment Nathaniel Tenenbaum, who acts as the narrator of the piece among other roles, steps foot on stage, the tone is joyful and ebullient. He welcomed us back to the theater with a happy little tear in his eye that got us all choked up and then we were off to the races after an updated rendition of "Joy to the World". A better narrator they could not have found.

And then we saw him, Scrooge. Now, in this production, ACT has two actors alternating the role of the odious Mr. Scrooge from night to night. The night I went we saw the incredible Amy Thone as Scrooge while the equally incredible R. Hamilton Wright played Marley, but when you go you might see the opposite. Either way you are in for a treat, but let's discuss what I saw. Thone is as laser focused in on her character as she always is. She disappears into each role and brings out a fantastic realism and humanity to them. So, when Scrooge has a moment of panic or dread, or when he finds his own spirit of Christmas, you feel it in your bones. Equal to that focus is Wright whose ghost of Marley was absolutely terrifying and pitiable. So, you can imagine the two of them facing off in the opening ghost sequence was a master class of what actors can do on stage.

BWW Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at ACT
R. Hamilton Wright in
A Christmas Carol at ACT.
Photo credit: Howard Shack

The entire cast is superb and quite a bit more diverse than past years and there's no reason it shouldn't be. I've said it before and will say it again, representation matters. So, we can have a woman playing Scrooge/Marley. We can have the incredible Ray Tagavilla and Claudine Mboligikpelani Nako as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit. We can have the fabulous Richard Nguyen Sloniker and Marion Jacobs as Scrooge's Nephew Fred and his new bride. It's all part of the wonderful colorblind casting or rather, just casting who is a great actor in the role.

They went even further with the casting of the ghosts to marvelous result. Chip Sherman, a non-binary actor, floats about the stage in a stunning white gown as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Also serving as the show's choreographer, Sherman imbues the spirit with an otherworldly presence and fantastic stylized movement creating a stunning rendition of the ghost I don't think I've seen before. And Seattle favorite Julie Briskman brings in her usual larger than life essence to the Ghost of Christmas Present to the delight of all. And her boisterous nature makes her fading spirit all the more tragic as she begins to recede into the past.

Director Julie Beckman has done a fantastic job of making this "not your parent's Christmas Carol" with the wonderful casting and updated music and dance, and I for one am here for it! And so, with my three-letter rating system, I give ACT's "A Christmas Carol" a refreshed YAY+. All the emotion and substance of the original but even more.

"A Christmas Carol" performs at ACT through December 26th. For tickets or information, visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.


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