Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at The Premiere Playhouse

Running through December 12th

By: Dec. 03, 2021

Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL at The Premiere Playhouse

The stage pictures created by A Christmas Carol presented by The Premiere Playhouse in Sioux Falls are a mixture of the traditional Dickens story and the inevitable temptation to "tech it up" in the modern theatre.

There are many aspects of this production that represent all that is good about the historic imagery that Charles Dickens created in his story, and there are times when I felt like I was looking at a Christmas card come to life. The opening scenes with the carolers singing some beautiful arrangements were a bit unbalanced due to the technology of body microphones. The mix was heavy on the soprano, and "I get it" - to hit those high notes you need to support and project and that adds volume. I would suggest that this very strong and vocally talented ensemble could surely project and balance their choral sound in proportion to a minimally orchestrated and recorded accompaniment track. They were quite delightful to hear off microphone in the scenes with Scrooge railing at them.

The images of the traditional set with its looming clock face center stage were very good. When a production has gone to the lengths and heights that this one most certainly accomplished, I like to look for pieces of furniture or props that don't fit the period and only noted one stool in the office with a naugahyde, padded seat that stood out as not in keeping with the period of the play.

The lighting and sound effects in the scenes with the ghosts, while definitely dramatic, were at times, brash and overly amplified. I was imagining a "mad scientist" sound technician cranking the volume up at certain points to purposely jar the audience. Some of the special lighting effects were quite magical largely due to the mystery of modern LED lighting tools.

Tom Roberts as Scrooge was masterful in his characterization of a miserly and abrasive man. His gestures, vocal diction, and command of the stage was evident from the first moments all the way through to the last, as he is transformed into a jolly, agile and light-footed person infused with the spirit of Christmas. There were so many moments in this performance that the expertise and experience of Mr. Roberts shone and generously illuminated the other actors on stage. Sioux Falls is lucky to have this artist among its ranks of many gifted artists.

Bart Workman as Bob Cratchit presents a seemingly nervous, tense and pressured person in the opening scene of the play as he navigates his work day with Scrooge. I was gratified to see this very experienced actor hit his stride with his character in the scenes with his family. His love for all the members of the Cratchit family felt so authentic, and was beautifully articulated with his vocal and physical bearing. Every detail from the sparkle in his eyes to his loving smile for each member of his family was heartwarming. All the members of the Cratchit family made such an indelible impression. They were the best Cratchit family unit that I have ever seen on the stage. I would suggest some amplification for little Belinda played by Hanalei Barrett. She has some excellent delivery of the dialogue that is somewhat lost due to a lack of projection. The actors portraying Peter, Martha and Tiny Tim were all very good, and very well suited to their parts.

John Buchanan as Scrooge's nephew Fred graced the stage with great humor, precise diction, and a pace that made all of his scenes flow smoothly. His adept performance was a gift to his fellow players and the audience in equal measure.

Merriweather, the imbibing housekeeper played by Nancy Henrichsen, was a comic treat with every appearance on stage and played a flawed character with humorous notes of attempted propriety that was refreshing and original.

The Ghosts of Marley, and Christmas Past, Present and Future were all portrayed with artistry and aplomb. Of special note was the character of Christmas Present, played by Matthew Walicke, for his vocal resonance in his character's accent, diction and projection.

J.A. Murphy as Old Joe had scant time on stage, but every word and intonation of his character was a delight to behold and spoke to his breadth of stage experience. He appeared to abide by the credo "no small parts, only small actors". Well done Mr. Murphy!

The Beggar Boy portrayed by Jaxson Boen had a stellar command of the cockney accent, comic timing and vocal volume in his brief appearances. His energy on stage was a precursor to, and indicative of all the children in this production. I found myself gleeful at the prospect of the scenes including these children due to their internal pace and natural drive to keep the scenes moving, making it all seem fresh every time they appeared on stage.

It is so good for our city to have a holiday theatrical performance to celebrate all that is good about humanity at Christmas. I had tears in my eyes as the audience sang along to the closing strains of a beautiful song and sentiment "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and will remember the experience of this unique adaptation of A Christmas Carol with fondness for so many aspects of the production.

You may experience this magic December 2 - 12 on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at The Premiere Playhouse on Phillips Avenue in Sioux Falls, SD.

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