OREM — Hale Center Theater Orem’s annual Christmas tradition, A Christmas Carol, has been a long time favorite for many. I was happy to see that this year did not disappoint. A Christmas Carol is the well-known, heart-warming tale written by Charles Dickens, chronicling the life and transformation of Ebenezer Scrooge. Dickens’s short novella was adapted into a musical version by Cody Hale, and it is this version that is produced by the Orem Hale annually.
The definite strong point in this production is the character Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Chris H. Brower. Brower has played the character many times before, and each year still enchants his audience. He is delightfully ornery in the beginning, scarring the neighborhood children and treating his clerk, Bob Cratchit (Eric Glissmeyer), with less than generosity. This makes his character a very unlikable one, though the unique component of Brower’s Scrooge is the element of humor he infuses into the classic curmudgeon. Brower creates many funny moments, making his performance more enjoyable to watch, and showing the audience that he is actually a quite charming old man. His performance also included many dramatic and powerful moments, one prominent one being his song, “Am I That Man?”
Throughout the course of the show, the character of Scrooge goes through one of the greatest and most dramatic mental and emotional journeys in the theatre. Brower depicted this journey wonderfully. He was able to share his feelings with the audience every step of the way so that the audience could really see this taking place. I found myself feeling true empathy for Scrooge, due to Brower’s realistic and honest acting style that was filled with grief and regret. Scrooge was able to come full circle on his journey, and by the end of the show had gone through a complete transformation. This was an amazing change that truly embodies the spirit of Christmas.
The other strongest actors in the production were Glissmeyer as Bob Cratchit and Patrick Brannelly as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Glissmeyer portrayed Bob Cratchit well, especially in the first half of the show. His childlike excitement because of the Christmas holiday was endearing, and Glissmeyer’s strongest moment in the show was his song “What Child is This?” which was filled with emotion and sung beautifully. Brannelly was able to effectively depict an enthusiastic yet mighty ghost with a robust voice to compliment the part. The choir was also quite good. They were able to create a very unified and blended sound that was lovely to listen to. I enjoyed listening to the choir sing traditional Christmas songs throughout the show, and was especially pleased with the beautiful sound they produced.
Although there was a decent amount of strong acting in the performance, there were weak links as well. Most of the acting felt fake and ungenuine. It seemed exaggerated and overacted. Unfortunately, this made it so I did not form emotional connections with any characters that I have not previously mentioned. I felt I missed out on a lot because of this, particularly in relation to the Cratchit family. During the sad events in the show, I was not nearly as moved or upset as I felt I should have been. There was definitely something missing, and I believe it was because, unlike Scrooge, the acting style did not make me fully believe what was happening onstage, and the characters did not force me to connect and/or sympathize with them.
The costume design by Maryann Hill worked very well in this production. All of the costumes complimented the characters and emphasized their status within the world of the play. The costumes also helped to establish the time period well, especially the women’s fancy party dresses and gorgeous costumes for the spirits. The scenic design by Bobby Swenson was also nice, as it was simple but incorporated all it needed to without being a distraction for the small stage. The lamps were a very nice touch, and I was impressed with the snow effect towards the end of the play. It is often hard to make snow look real in an indoor theater, but the snow in this production was a success. I also noticed the walls of the theater as being reminiscent of an old cathedral, which captured the mood of the musical before it even began and also added an even deeper layer of meaning into the story.
Overall, A Christmas Carol is a delightful family show. There are a few spooky moments, but just hold your little ones tight and this is a show that everyone can enjoy, no matter how old. The production is sure to get even the biggest “scrooges” into the Christmas spirit. The show sends a wonderful message that is nice for everyone to be reminded of, especially around the holidays. A Christmas Carol is a joyful and uplifting experience.