OREM — Each year, Hale Center Theater Orem produces its original adaptation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol (music and lyrics by Cody Hale). This adaptation intersperses the classic story with familiar Christmas carols, resulting in a version where the emotion and significance of each carol is highlighted by the action on stage as the music drives the action forward.
Of course, A Christmas Carol is the story of how Ebeneezer Scrooge, a cruel miser who is indifferent to the needs of other human beings, is taught compassion by three Christmas ghosts. In the course of one night these spirits show him scenes from Christmastime in the past, present, and future in an effort to show Scrooge why he should be charitable towards his fellow man.
The magic of Hale Center Theater Orem’s A Christmas Carol comes from its talented and enthusiastic on-stage talent (directed by Jerry Elison). The choir’s voices blended gorgeously, and the lead vocalists each exhibited flawless vocal talent, thanks to the musical direction of Cameron Cahoon. Chris H. Brower’s vocal performance was full of wonderful emotion in the lead role as Ebenezer Scrooge. Brower’s talent was most apparent in the way the mood of his vocal performances changed throughout the show: Brower’s performance made Scrooge’s transformation believable and easy to understand.
Among the other cast members, Thomas Wood’s Ghost of Christmas Past and Jonathan Fifield’s Ghost of Christmas Present stood out as being not just talented vocalists but also talented stage actors. Wood gave his ghost a somber tone tempered with compassion for Scrooge that made the past that shaped Scrooge’s reactions all the more heartbreaking. Fifield’s ghost transitioned naturally between ebullient good cheer and sorrow for the impoverishment of the body and spirit of so many of the individuals he encountered, seeming to infuse Scrooge with his infectious love of mankind.
Bobby Swenson‘s set design for A Christmas Carol mimics the Victorian England setting of the play, with all of the walls covered in murals of stained glass windows and brick (scenic painting by Penny Jones), flickering lanterns hanging from the ceiling. The design permitted fluid transitions between Scrooge’s four-poster bed and different buildings and streets across London—an essential ingredient for a story that has many scene changes. Period costumes (designed by MaryAnn Hill and Amanda Fitt), hair, and makeup (Janna Larsen and Laura Birman) perfectly communicated the time period as well as each character’s personality and financial class.
My only real complaint about the whole show was sound quality (sound design by Cody Hale). The speakers were turned up so loud that the sound was noticeably distorted throughout the play. I recognize that the large elderly contingent in the audience at Hale Center Theater Orem’s plays may make it necessary for the volume to be a bit louder than at most theaters, but about twenty minutes into the play my ears were hurting. Additionally, the recorded narration to the play was extremely low quality making it difficult to understand at several points. At first I presumed the low quality recording must have been taken from some old film adaptation of the story, but the quality improved throughout the evening and included some interaction with the characters that left me to believe that it was an original recording.
Still, the low sound quality didn’t ruin the evening. The story is a classic, the ornate set is spectacular, the musical performances are lovely, and the cast are a charming group of talented individuals—many of whom make a tradition of participating every year. I’d simply suggest taking along a pair of earplugs to keep your ears from buzzing afterward.