See This Show: "A Christmas Carol"
Do I even need to go over this with you guys? “A Christmas Carol” is the quintessential holiday story, full of warmth, humor, and a positive (mostly secular) message. I’ve loved this tale since I was a kid, even while attending Jewish day school (!). But until last night, I’d never seen it performed on stage.
So, thanks, A.C.T. for making my Christmas dreams come true. Too far? Maybe a little. I’m not going to say “A Christmas Carol” is a perfect productionâ€”nothing will ever come close to “The Muppet Christmas Carol,” after allâ€”but it’s still a lot of fun. Here’s a little plot summary for you heathens unfamiliar with the story. Ebeneezer Scrooge is the ultimate hater, concerned only with money and being a real Debbie Downer. But on one fateful Christmas Eve, he’s visited by three ghosts: The Ghost of Christmas Past (delightfully femme in this production), the Ghost of Christmas Present (here, boisterous and awesome), and The Ghost of Christmas Future (really effing scary). I won’t spoil the ending, but there’s a serious personality change involved. And, if you’re anything like me, some sappy tears.
There’s a lot to enjoy about A.C.T.’s “A Christmas Carol.” The special effects are tons of fun, mostly because they never really try to hide the wires. That may sound strange, but consider that theatrical productions that try to incorporate too many bells and whistles are often distracting. When you’re watching “A Christmas Carol,” you’re always aware that you’re watching a play. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a point in the show’s favor. Besides, even knowing how the tricks are done doesn’t make Jacob Marley or (shudder) the Ghost of Christmas Future any less creepy.
The other highlight is the pitch-perfect performance by James Carpenter, A.C.T.’s go-to Scrooge. He’s great at being a miser, great at being a regretful old fool, and great (and a little manic) at being a reformed grump. (Shoot, spoiled the ending.) It’s not an easy role to play, because Scrooge has to be a pain in the ass and ultimately sympathetic. Here, he’s just the right blend, making his ultimate transformation all the more rewarding.
There’s a good chance “A Christmas Carol” is familiar material to you, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth revisiting. Head to A.C.T. for a chance to feel like a kid again, to revel in the holiday spirit, and to confront your fear of the Ghost of Christmas Future. (Wait, that last one’s just for me.)
Photo by Kevin Berne.