Every year, people seem to forget Charles Dickens’ moral lesson to be less materialistic around Christmas time.
Director Rachel Peake offered a pleasant reminder in her upbeat retelling of A Christmas Carol on opening night. The audience was already buzzing and milling about an hour before curtain call, greeted by an usher in a top hat and tailcoat.
The play felt traditional with its faith to the original storyline, gorgeous Victorian costumes and magnificent mustaches. However, it also felt modern, as the actors spoke in their own accents and strummed guitars for the carols. These minor changes made the play feel less stiffly Victorian and more playful and relatable.
The visual and sound effects treated the audience to the same duality. The black backdrop drew open and closed in a smooth rectangular motion, revealing deep hues of orange and purple that mysteriously silhouetted characters as they emerged. Along with traditional music, there was intense bass for moments of suspense. Spinning wooden structures and moving ladders added a dreamy aspect to the set.
Russell Roberts was the perfect fit as Ebenezer Scrooge, just crotchety enough at the beginning, barking that “love is the one thing more ridiculous than Christmas.” He was then irresistibly charming when he went through his transformation, skipping around in the snow and making boyish jokes.
The child actors, Jenna Lamb and Scotia Browner, were also a delight in their range of characters, from Lamb as innocent Tiny Tim to Browner as a sarcastic child Scrooge.
The acting wasn’t wooden just because the plot was familiar. As Scrooge watched the memory of his ex-fiancé, Belle (Amanda Testini), breaking up with him, he reflected desperation and regret while yelling, “Say something, say something!” to his stony young self.
As well, the young and diverse cast didn’t act as mere literary tools to talk about Scrooge. They created their own playful and humorous scenes and likable characters. Adam Olgui was kind and bumbling as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s underpaid employee. Yet he also effectively portrayed the subtle ache of a parent being concerned about his child’s illness but also pretending everything is alright.
Dickens’ work remains culturally relevant because, centuries later, his criticism of western society rings true. As long as people continue to be preoccupied with shopping and money year after year, one can be sure this play will also return to warn us of the true cost.
This production of A Christmas Carol is a picturesque and earnest retelling of the classic tale and, as always, it concludes with the uplifting notion that it is never too late to change. For any viewer seeking some traditional Christmas cheer, this play will more than fit the bill.