BWW Reviews: ACT's A CHRISTMAS CAROL Alive with Magic
ACT and Director John Langs completely nailed it again and then some. I saw the production last year of ACT's Seattle tradition of "A Christmas Carol" and found myself struck by how well they conveyed this classic tale. And as much as I enjoyed it last year there was something even more magical and special in the air for this year's production (or they spiked my eggnog) as I completely found myself swept away by this incredible show and, yes, crying my eyes out.
If you don't know the classic Dickens tale by now then you really need to get out more. I mean everyone knows the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (played on alternate nights by R. Hamilton Wright and Peter Crook), the most curmudgeonly old skinflint in town who looks upon Christmas as a "humbug" until he's visited by four ghosts who show him how he's become this way and how he will meet his end unless he changes. It's a ghost story, a love story, a morality play and one of the most beloved Christmas tales in the world. So why keep telling it? How can it still be relevant or even engaging? It's just that good. Plus Langs and his cast and crew have created a truly magical world to inhabit that sets up the perfect tone, and thrilling sense of wonder.
First off I must applaud Langs (as I usually do as he's become one of my favorite directors in town) for getting the cast to truly dive into the characters of the piece. The story can be "here's Scrooge and then there a ghost, and another ghost and so forth" with nothing special to mention. But that's in the hands of a lesser director as even the smallest part in a scene can become a fully realized and vibrant character under Langs' direction. And oh that staging and technical wizardry as ghosts emerge out of no where, and the scene goes from terrifying to jubilant at the drop of a hat. Yes, it can be a little terrifying for the younger kids. I noticed a few young ones the afternoon I was there who were fervently burying their faces in their parent's chest until the scary ghosts went away.
The cast is superb. Last year I saw the amazing Crook in the main role so I made sure to catch Wright this year and was not at all disappointed. His always engaging style fit perfectly for the role and his journey and arc were wonderful. The three ghosts who speak (Christmas future never has too much to say) each managed to bring stunning elements. David Foubert as Marley was totally creepy and laser focused. Sydney Andrews took Christmas Past and turned her into a lovely little pixie with a bit of a dark edge. And Charles Leggett's boisterous Christmas Present abounded with joy. James Lapan and Anne Allgood made for some of the most engaging and fleshed out Cratchit's I've ever seen. Scott W. Abernathy gave a heartbreaking portrayal of Scrooge as a young man making all the wrong choices with the lovely Khanh Doan as the one who should be the object of his affection. Brian David Earp along with Doan managed the most exuberant and lovable nephew Fred and wife. I have to mention the brilliant comedy supplied by Rob Burgess and Bobbi Kotula throughout which just placed the cherry on top of the already delicious treat. And yes, Cedric David Martin Wade as Tiny Tim is possibly one of the most adorable things you'll see all year.
The show has always been a winner in the hands of ACT and is even more so in the hands of Langs and this cast and crew. It's truly something special and we should be grateful we have it here with us. And I, of course, give it a resounding YAY with my three letter rating system. It's an incredible Seattle tradition that shows no signs of aging or becoming tarnished.
"A Christmas Carol" performs at ACT through December 28th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.