cool carol: (l-r) Phil Sheehan and Meredith Bull in
HMTs A Christmas Carol.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
and directed by Terry Rabine
Home Made Theater, Spa Little Theater
Home Made Theater’s recent production of A Christmas Carol
kept the “wow” factor high in an old chestnut that can seem
overdone even to kids.
Throughout the performance, my 8-year-old kept leaning over
to whisper “Cool!” in my ear at each new special effect. This
is a child who’s listened to the entire original Dickens story
on tape, who’s seen several versions (including the Mister
Magoo interpretation against which, in my humble opinon, all
others must be judged), and for whom computer-generated images
on screen are a constant topic of conversation. In other words,
impressing this kid is no mean feat.
Despite the enormous cast (nearly 30 players, many with multiple
parts), the show’s design itself was the star. Director Terry
Rabine made the most out of a deceptively simple set consisting
of just a few pieces of scenery on wheels, the London skyline
and some fog. When the first of Scrooge’s ghostly tour guides
arrives to transport him to scenes of Christmas past, his
curtained bed is whisked in, around and through the whirling
backdrops of counting house and classroom. The fact that we
can see very clearly the cast members doing the spinning makes
the effect no less magical.
Added to this is Rabine’s deft use of lighting, especially
when Scrooge’s bed curtains are illuminated by the glow of
the first ghost, and sound, including Marley’s chains, the
spontaneous ringing of bells throughout the house and the
echoes of Scrooge’s memories. Gorgeous costumes by Karen Mazurkiewicz
completed the effect.
Rabine’s adaptation, pared down to a brisk hour, included
a Dickens-like narrator and hit all the major notes. The director
made some interesting choices, casting former Annie
national touring company lead Meredith Bull as the Ghost of
Christmas Past, which added another dimension of ambiguity
to the figure Dickens described as both “like a child” yet
“like an old man” viewed as if “from a distance.” Rabine himself
played the green-robed Ghost of Christmas Present not like
the “jolly Giant, glorious to see” but as a roaring specter
with more menace than mirth. His belligerent performance almost
overshadowed the final, Grim Reaper-like spirit who terrifies
Scrooge with the picture of his death.
This Scrooge, played by Phil Sheehan, was not as well-drawn
a character as in other Christmas Carols, but as with
the rest of the cast he fit the part visually, at any rate,
to a T. At times it seemed he was ad-libbing his lines, something
that shouldn’t have been necessary given the richness of Dickens’
dialogue. The rest of the supporting players did a fine job.
In fact, the crowd scenes were so lively that they occasionally
drowned out the narrator’s lines.
Still, A Christmas Carol that manages to combine such
an authentic Victorian look and modern-day energy is nothing
to sneer at. A show that makes 8-year-old boys glad to be
taken to the theater is a great gift indeed.