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BWW Review: The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis's Timeless Classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Perhaps the best way to approach Dickens' venerable A CHRISTMAS CAROL is straight-forward, with a generous helping of music, sterling performances, and some cool effects to liven up the proceedings. After all, the story, which dates from 1843, has been reworked, parodied, and used as a device by nearly every sitcom and animated show ever made. So, what's old seems new again in The Repertory of St. Louis' current presentation for the holidays. And, what a treat it is. David H. Bell's adaptation is faithful to the spirit and language of the story, which occurs when the industrial revolution has wreaked havoc on the lives of both the old and young. Filled with energy and enthusiasm, this is an absolute must-see for the Christmas season!

A aging miser named Ebenezer Scrooge is set upon by four ghosts on Christmas Eve, each presenting him with various reflections on his life, both what it has been and what is to come his present course is not corrected. His first visitor is his dead business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells the skeptic Scrooge that he will have three more visitors. He does, of course, in the person of The Ghost of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Naturally, their revelations hit the old man hard, causing him to have an epic change of heart.

John Rensenhouse is absolute perfection as Scrooge, imbuing him with the proper "bah, humbug" attitude that we've come to expect, while also allowing his eventual joy to transform him immensely. It's a wonderful performance, and while the role is certainly the maIn Focus, all the supporting cast of characters is equally splendid. Joneal Joplin, in heavy makeup, makes for a particularly eerie presence as Jacob Marley, and we also glimpse him in flashbacks from Scrooge's life. Landon Tate Boyle is very good as the younger Scrooge, slowly letting his lust for money quash any thought of merriment or romance for that matter. Michael James Reed is sympathetic as Scrooge's employee, Bob Cratchit, and Amy Loui does sharp work as his wife. Ben Nordstrom is full of Christmas cheer as Scrooge's nephew Fred, and Lana Dvorak pulls double duty (as do many cast members) as Belle, who was once engaged to Scrooge, and as Fred's lovely wife. Jerry Vogel is irrepressible as Mr. Fezziwig, and full of jollity as The Ghost of Christmas Present.

The supporting cast deserves mention because they all do excellent work, whether singing Christmas carols (nicely arranged and musically directed by Jeffrey Carter), or acting in specific roles. The rest of this splendid cast includes: Jacqueline Thompson, Owen Hanford, Kaley Bender Justin Leigh Duhon, Kennedy Holmes, Phoenix Lawson, Nathaniel Mahone, Kara Overlien, Libby Jaspar, Chris Tipp, Susie Wall, Jack Zanger, Peggy Billo, Grace Clark, Madison Dixon, Elise Edwards, Susannah Egley, Spencer Jones, Cole Joyce, Alan Knoll, Lily McDonald, Ronan Ryan, and Donna Weinsting.

Steven Woolf's direction is top notch, with all the all the right dramatic and comic notes in the script coming through with clarity and period style. Robert Mark Morgan's scenic design tells a story in itself, with Scrooge's counting house filled with the goods repossessed by loans gone unpaid. Dorothy Marshall Englis has the monumental task of costuming this large cast, and does so with aplomb. Rob Denton's lighting design works well to set the mood, and comes to spooky life when the ghosts begin to appear. On the Fly Production LLC provides the flying effects, and Ellen Isom aids the overall effect as Movement Supervisor.

Don't miss The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis' highly engaging take on A CHRISTMAS CAROL. It continues through December 24, 2016 on the main stage of the Loretto-Hilton.

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From This Author Chris Gibson