A Christmas Carol
Ford's Theatre presents a classic story in classic style.
The beautifully detailed set for the 35th annual A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre is so realistic, you almost expect snow to fall gently on 19th-century London. And, in fact, it's not long before snow does fall. This production, adapted by Michael Wilson from Charles Dickens' original, has stood the test of time, and shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.
The story starts on Christmas Eve in Ebenezer Scrooge's counting house with a discussion between Scrooge and his clerk, Bob Cratchit, about the chill in the office. When Cratchit suggests that a fire would help to keep away the cold, Scrooge has an opportunity to shout "Humbug!" and chide Crachit for his "costly methods." On his way home, Scrooge visits people who owe him money: He takes a doll from the woman who runs a puppet show, a can of cider from the woman who owns a grocery cart, and a clock from an inventor of steam-driven devices, making it clear to all that he is "too generous" with them.
When he gets home, he is visited by the ghost of Joseph Marley, who died seven years earlier. Using a little smoke and clever lighting by Rui Rita, a portrait of Marley hanging on Scrooge's wall is transformed into a real person, rattling chains and all. He tells Scrooge that he will be visited by three spirits that night and that he must listen to what they say.
When the first spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives, she is suspended in the air. She allows Scrooge to see children he went to school with and the softening of his heart begins immediately. As they leave, Scrooge remarks, "I should like to have given them something." The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives to take Scrooge to his nephew Fred's house. There Scrooge hears Fred tell his friends about his tightfisted uncle, revealing that he thinks Scrooge hurts only himself with his penury.
The Ghost of Christmas Future appears as a terrifying apparition, a skeleton's head, its body represented by yards of billowing silk. Scrooge begs the Ghost to let him behold what will happen in days to come and a tombstone with Scrooge's name rises from the earth. It's a short step from there to Scrooge's redemption, as he falls to his knees, claiming that "the shadows have been dispelled."
Craig Wallace is both credible as Scrooge at his meanest and most petty, and Scrooge when he has learned the lesson of Christmas and has love in his heart. Whether he is booming his signature, "Bah! Humbug!" or doing a jig, Wallace knows how to bring maximum energy to the role of Scrooge.
Michael Bunce is excellent as Bob Cratchit, who bears Scrooge's ill-temper with good grace. James Konicek makes a terrifying Jacob Marley, scaring Scrooge enough to make him listen to the spirits. Maria Egler is very funny in her role as Scrooge's charwoman.
Felicia Curry plays three vital roles including the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Future, and Doll Vendor) with vigor, as does Rick Hammerly in the role of Scrooge's earlier employer, Mr. Fezziwig. Gregory Maheu as a solid Fred and Eben K. Logan as a delightful as Mrs. Fred. Yesenia Iglesias nicely portrays Mrs. Fred's Sister, while Barbara Pinolini's portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present is merry and credible. Jovani Morales-Shackelford rounds out the cast as a charming Tiny Tim.
Michael Baron directs this Christmas Carol, keeping the action moving at a steady pace, making it understandable to even the youngest audience member.
Lee Savage's set shows four iron arches spanning the stage against the dark outline of London's buildings. The arch closest to the audience ends in a passageway crossing the stage, with two circular stairways lead down to the stage at either end of that passageway. Alejo Vietti's costumes are the epitome of Victorian style: great hoop skirts for the wealthy women; neatly cut vests and jackets for the men; colorless rags for the poor.
One particularly outstanding quality of this production is the music, which appears is throughout. Choral director Jay Crowder has worked out a way to fit in (if only for a few bars) every familiar Christmas carol, making this almost as much a musical as it is a play. Choreographer Shea Sullivan makes this 24-person cast look as though all the play's walking and considerable dancing is natural and unforced.
As one of the world's most beloved works, A Christmas Carol deserves a first-class production, and this Ford's Theatre production does not disappoint with this rich visual and vocal treat.