OGDEN — On Monday the 23rd, Terrace Plaza Playhouse closed their 28th annual production of Scrooge: A Christmas Carol. As Utah has a robust Christmas season, it can be difficult to make it to every show, but the folks at Terrace were gracious enough to let my daughter and I attend closing night of this tradition so that I could write a review of Christmas present, reflect on Christmas past, and ponder on Christmas yet to come.
Directed by Jacci Olsen Florence, one of the impressive strengths of this production is the costumes that have been gathered over the 28-year history of this production. Costume Director Cindy Simmons has a rich collection of beautiful Dickensian era clothing that keeps the whole cast dressed to the nines, from Mr. Scrooge himself to every last chorus member. I love every single one of the costumes and found myself wishing I could buy one of the cloaks for my own winter coat. Additionally, the props by Lori Eggleston are so intricate and well-designed that they make the whole production even more interesting and innovative.
Many of the different characters stood out this year, but I would like to point out a couple in particular. The spooky Jacob Marley, played by Ken Hadlock, had an impressively booming and deep voice that when he came on to the stage, I was legitimately scared. If he had come to haunt me in my sleep, I would have struggled to overcome that encounter for quite some time. Then when the choreography by ShaNae Littlewood and Florence was added with the ghost dancers and the lighting design by DD Lynch, I was taken by all the elements and found that scene to be one of my favorites in the entire show.
When Sherri Folkman as the ghost of Christmas Past entered the stage with her joyful yet silly personality, my 13-year-old daughter leaned over to me and said, “I like her already!” That first impression did not disappoint, as Folkman continued to provide a terrific performance accompanied by a set of talented young dancers. Christmas Past’s segment of showing Scrooge, played in a surprisingly jovial yet gruff fashion by Mark Daniels, his past Christmas experiences was well-thought out and executed.
The ghost of Christmas Present, played by Doug Peterson, gave us a happy representation of Christmas and had the best segment of choreography by Littlewood and Florence. Terrace Plaza has a great legacy of community and family involvement in the theater arts in northern Utah. It is often one of the difficulties faced by a critic, because the challenge I see is that the stage can feel overcrowded even while I appreciate the inclusion of family and community in the making of theater. I see a great deal of thought that goes into using the space to create unique staging at the playhouse, and the levels created in the dancing is important for not crowding the stage too much as is choosing who is playing in which scenes. Director Florence has been a part of Scrooge for many years and obviously has experience making sure the space is used in the best way possible. I am an advocate for involvement in the arts, so if the sacrifice of involvement is a little less perfection in a chorus number, it is something as a critic I can handle in a community show.
As for Daniels as Scrooge, the song, “I Hate People,” tickles my funny bone every time I hear it. I am not sure what that says about me and my own attitude, but I was impressed with Daniels and his ability to play the humor of the song, keep up with the complicated choreography, and sound so magnificent.
There are so many versions of this popular story at Christmastime. As I saw this production, I pondered why it remains such a vital part of the holiday. Charles Dickens wrote the story in 1843, and yet we still find it told in many different ways over 170 years later. Terrace Plaza intends to keep telling their version for many years to come. I assume it is because it reminds us that we are all a part of each other, helping and hurting, hoping and healing. I appreciated being able to end my holiday theater season with a community show that has grown over two decades into a true community celebration of talent and joy. A crowded stage may not be perfect, but it is certainly something that shows a community of love and acceptance.