WEST VALLEY CITY — The Christmas Carol has been a popular story for over 170 years. It has the magic of Christmas, the human condition, redemption, family, love, kindness, unrequited romance, it’s a wonderful mixture of reality and the supernatural. The set is not contained to the stage, and even every entrance is decorated to look like the streets of old England, even the ones that are not used in the production. Evergreen garlands, red velvet ribbons, and flickering candles in old fashioned lanterns fill the space and draw the audience into the production with the actors.
Show closes December 24, 2016.
The Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley takes on this production every year to sold out audiences. many families traditionally attend or even participate each year. I attended this show on a Monday so I saw the Monday/Wednesday/Friday cast, but I’m sure the other cast is equally talented and engaging. This year’s Ebenezer Scrooge played by David Weekes was energetic, emotional, and engaged. There are many times when Scrooge is left on the sidelines to observe a scene in which he does not participate, and Weekes stayed involved and focused through the whole thing. This was particularly impressive because it was the second show of the night. Playing Scrooge means playing two different characters and transitioning smoothly from one to the other. Weekes did this very well with his subtle reactions to the events of the story shifting gradually rather than abruptly changing.
The several child actors had impressive focus and stamina, performing twice a night three times per week. Alexander Scott’s precious Tiny Tim was frail yet cheerful, and while he was usually carried around the stage, when he did walk he used his crutch as easily as if it were really his. Cairo McGee as the Ghost of Christmas Past was haunting and ethereal and an expert at the creepy lilting voice of just a specter. The Cratchit children seemed comfortable together like siblings, and the family dynamic felt very natural. Almost all of the children played multiple parts, and while they certainly succeeded, it would have been nice to have more children cast in the play to bring more life and family spirit to the crowd scenes.
One of the most beautiful relationships in the show is the one between Tiny Tim and his father Bob Cratchit, played by David K. Martin. Martin beautifully captured the loving affections of a father doting upon his son, never resenting the special care Tiny Tim requires. Bob Cratchit’s heartbreaking grief when his little son passes away is apparent in Martin’s performance. In many stories about child loss it’s the mother who falls to pieces and is supported or even restrained by her stoic husband. In A Christmas Carol, Dickens allows us to see another side to the story, when the father is most heavily affected and must be supported by his wife (played by Kate Rufener). he depiction of fatherly love and grief is beautiful and important, especially when such depictions are so rare.
The set and lighting design (done by Kacey Udy and Adam Flitton, respectively) worked well together to move the characters smoothly through the story. Instead of black outs and changes of set pieces the scenes flowed along in succession, and when the lights went out there were still candles glowing all around the stage and the audience. This mimicked Dickens’ style of writing and aided suspension of disbelief by maintaining the illusion of 1843 instead of plunging the audience into darkness and reminding them they were in a theatre. The only exceptions were during the visit of the ghost of Jacob Marley when lime green light poured out of the fireplace, and the Ghost of Christmas Future was bathed in red and purple light. These effects felt very out of place and broke the illusion on the era.
A Christmas Carol plays at the Hale Centre Theatre Mondays through Saturdays at 2, 5, and 8 PM with an additional show at 11:00 AM on Saturdays through December 24th. Tickets are $18-42. For more information, visit www.hct.org.
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