I think most (if not all) actors have a soft spot in their jaded little hearts for Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Why? Because it’s something most of us have done a half a dozen (or more) times in our careers. The holiday season is always a joyous time for those who have chosen to make their careers on the boards, since so many theaters aim to appeal to their patrons and produce some sort of Christmas show. As those chorus kids shout at the beginning of “42nd Street,” the holiday season brings a familiar feeling for us thespians: “Jobs! We’re gonna work again!”
So perhaps that’s part of why I love “A Christmas Carol” so much. The other part, I think, comes from the basic human connection to the story. It’s been said countless times before that Dickens’ tale is universal and appeals to those of all faiths and denominations. Really, it’s not so much a story about Christmas as it is about humanity, compassion, love and second chances.
Then of course, there are the ghosts… and who doesn’t love ghosts?
I’m a sucker for a traditional “A Christmas Carol” dripping with all the trappings of Dickensian London, and this year, Trinity Rep’s production left me feeling totally satisfied. Sure, I enjoyed last year’s 1950’s spin, but there’s something about the classic setting that truly makes it come alive. Keeping it within the world Dickens intended assures that you’re never jarred out of the story, as sometimes happens when the play is forced into a more modern mold.(to the left: Mia Ellis as The Ghost of Christmas Past Photo | Mark Turek)
Trinity always comes up with ways to reinvent the play, and insert music and dancing into their annual production. But sometimes, the music feels a wee bit out of place, but really, what better time than Christmas to shove random singing and merriment into an otherwise non-musical script?
I loved every bit of the show, from the solos sung by the children to the jolly narration by Tom Gleadow to the comedic bits performed with ease by the repertory company members. It’s filled with mirth, camp and joy, and that’s just what I was hoping for.
Tyler Dobrowsky, the play’s director, crafted some clever scene transitions this year that made the whole 90-minute production feel like a seamless, moving diorama of Scrooge’s timeless journey. (And then there’s the wonderful set -- complete with a giant, working, luminous clock – by the incomparable Eugene Lee.)
Of course, “A Christmas Carol” wouldn’t be complete without some magic, and I have to say, there’s one haunting bit during Marley’s scene that I didn’t see coming – I was pleasantly surprised (and scared).
Really, there’s not much else to say about the show that’s already a well-established Rhode Island tradition. “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity Rep is already wildly popular, and you, dear reader, have already perhaps decided if you’ll be going this year or not.
Though there is another thing that I love about this year’s production: Trinity has included some new faces from the community. It’s a thrill to see both children and adults from outside the company and consortium glowing not only with the Christmas spirit, but with the joy of being cast in such an iconic Trinity tradition. I’d love to see more of that in other productions, too. (to the right: Timothy Crowe as Ebenezer Scrooge andMauro Hantman as Bob Cratchitin. Photo | Mark Turek)
So the bottom line is, if you’re looking for a trite and true Dickensian “Christmas Carol,” don’t miss this year’s production at Trinity Rep.
“A Christmas Carol” runs now through Dec. 29 at Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence. For tickets, visit trinityrep.com or call 351-4242.
Kim Kalunian | Contributing Writer