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Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS at Olney Theatre Center

Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS at Olney Theatre Center

Playing through January 1st in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab

Holidays and traditions go hand-in-hand, and seeing Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol brought to life on stage is a staple for many families. Olney Theatre Center's annual production of Paul Morella's one man presentation is always a fresh and creative take on this Christmas classic.

Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS at Olney Theatre Center
Paul Morella in "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story
of Christmas" at Olney Theatre Center.
Photo credit: Teresa Castracane Photography

The show's subtitle "A Ghost Story of Christmas" is actually taken from the full title of the Dickens novella - and Morella treats the source material with great respect and affection, even noting in his preshow speech that over 99% of the text of the play is taken directly from the novella. It's clear he loves his work - greeting audience members as they arrive and again as they leave the performance.

In between, Morella delivers a performance that is a theatrical tour de force. Christmas Carol is meant to be told as a story, and Morella is a master storyteller. As a narrator, he's like an old friend telling the tale; as an actor, he brings over 50 characters to life with an energy and animation that is truly amazing. Each character is fully formed, with unique voices and mannerisms, and each one propels the story forward.

Review: A CHRISTMAS CAROL: A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS at Olney Theatre Center
Paul Morella in "A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story
of Christmas" at Olney Theatre Center.
Photo credit: Teresa Castracane Photography

This production has indeed become an annual tradition at Olney, and this marks the 13th year it's been presented. The longevity is obvious in the polished production, and the attention to details. The set is a wonderful, jumbled mélange of books, manuscripts, period furnishings, and half-burned candles - primarily Scrooge's meager bachelor lodgings, but Morella cleverly uses everything at hand - often unconventionally - to set whatever scene he's creating. Sonya Dowhaluk's lighting does a wonderful job of setting mood and segmenting the stage, and the sound design (originally created by Edward Moser, and remounted by Justin Schmitz) is an active part of the story, both integrated within the action and setting and underlying tone. Projections by Patrick W. Lord add an additional layer of nuance to the visual impact of the show. It's a feast for both the eyes and ears, and Morella and company take the audience through the story.

A Christmas Carol is a delightful holiday show for the whole family, and it could quickly become an annual family tradition. The show is appropriate for all ages, and a wonderful way to introduce young children to live theatre.

A Christmas Carol runs in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab through January 1st. Running time is approximately 2:10, with one intermission.

For more information about Olney Theatre Center click here.



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