OGDEN — There are countless retellings of Charles Dickens‘s famous novel A Christmas Carol. Whether through movies or theatrical experiences, most Americans are well acquainted with the account of a man who had his heart set in the greedy pursuit of money—rather than the building up of his fellow man—and the visits from haunting spirits of Christmas to help him see the true meaning of goodwill towards men.
The Terrace Plaza Playhouse in Ogden has mounted a production of Scrooge for over a decade every December. As I spoke with fellow audience members, I learned that this is a tradition that families have come to look forward to and enjoy every year. Indeed, the annual ritual extends to performers, with many families performing together annually in the ensemble. While the classic Dickens story is always enjoyable, this adaptation, while fun, has some script choices that I found disappointing. With Leslie Bricusse as the composer, librettist, and playwright for this play, I can say that this is not his most impressive work. However, the cast and crew of Terrace Plaza were able to take the material and put together a fun and meaningful evening.
Director Jacci Olsen Florence also portrayed a delightful Ghost of Christmas Past. From her delightful costume designed by Cindy Simmons, to the cute choreography by ShaNae Littlewood and Jacci Olsen Florence, to the clever use of set pieces by set designers Curtis May and Joe May, the Ghost of Christmas Past was a delightful character that was emblematic of the production as a whole. Choreography by Littlewood and Ms. Florence was a highlight of the production, from the opening sequence where dancers ranged from chimney sweeps to school children, urchins, villagers, and more, I could tell that Ms. Florence paid a lot of attention to polishing the details in the ensemble’s performance. The music direction by Brittney Ann was also delightful, with strong harmonies and some delightful solos from very young characters such as Paul Crimin as Tiny Tim. Simmons especially helped bring the Christmas spirit to the show with all of the colorful, interesting costuming she has put on the stage. The details in every actor’s clothes added a touch of class to the full production. I really enjoyed the costume of Jacob Marley, played by Ken Hadlock, and the Ghost of Christmas Future, played by Colton Lynch. The set by May and May was also very lovely, and it helped turn my mind to the beginning of the festive season.
Best of all in this production was the portrayal of Ebenezer himself by Kim Florence. In any story of redemption, it is important to build a character with a balance of disdain and humanity. This can be a challenge, and I have seen several productions of A Christmas Carol that leave Ebenezer so careless that it is difficult to foster any belief in a genuine change of heart that he could experience in one night. I was quite pleased to see that this was not the case with Florence. One of the things I most enjoyed about his performance was the amount of humor he was able to bring to the character. Humor can help the audience build empathy for a character, and Florence understood this. Perhaps my favorite number in the performance is a song called “I Hate People,” in which Scrooge is able to help the audience understand why he is the way that he is. I could see how this song could have been played in a way that would have left the audience with a very low opinion of Scrooge. However, Florence was able to balance the performance with both anger and humor, and left me feeling the need to root and hope for his eventual change.
This production is very family friendly, and it struck me as a good play to help introduce children to live theatre and the classic story in a new form. From elements such as young dancers and actors, to colorful sleighs and beautiful Christmas scenery, it is a great opportunity to bring in the Christmas spirit while also supporting this family tradition. I loved to look through the program and see the names of brothers and sisters and parents and other relatives all performing together. I love that the community has chosen to make theatre a way to bring in holiday cheer. I hope that with all the opportunities currently out there, more people will take the time to make seeing a live production part of the holiday season.