SOUTH JORDAN — “Add some seasoning to your dinner event,” is the tag line for Salty Dinner Theater. It should say, add some holiday season to your dinner by attending this fantastic production of A Christmas Carol. I would certainly recommend this delightful event for a different and fun date night, girl’s night out or family event.
Hopefully everyone knows the basic story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a greedy old man who is miserable and who has no room in his life for any joy or kindness. Three ghosts visit him on Christmas Eve, which causes a significant and wonderful change of heart. Commonly used Christmas phrases; ‘bah-humbug’ and “God bless us, every one!” originated in this critically acclaimed story.
A Christmas Carol was originally published as a book on December 19, 1843. It has never been out of print, has been transferred to stage, film, opera and other media, “and has been credited with restoring the holiday to one of merriment and festivity in Britain and America after a period of sobriety and somberness.”
Dickens grew up in impoverished London, and similar to many of his other works, he uses his storytelling to make social and political commentaries. On the cusp of the British government’s recent changes in welfare law, he released Carol, the story of a man who, after a change of heart, willingly looks after his fellow impoverished man (and especially children), a theme that is recurrent in many of his other works.
With a heritage deeply rooted in American holiday tradition, how does Salty Dinner’s version measure up?
A simple production, tonight’s dress rehearsal was held at Madeline’s restaurant in South Jordan. Without a stage or much of a set, the actors used few props and relied on audience interaction, beautiful vocals and talent to convey a heart felt holiday message.
As patrons arrived and took their seats, the actors floated from table to table, conversing lightly in their English accents while staying delightfully in character. Charles Dickens (Andrew Maizner) began the narration easily and believably whisking the audience quickly into the world of Ebenezer Scrooge (Scott Thompson) and the ever optimistic Bob Cratchit (Joseph Tompson).
Next we were introduced to The Ghost of Christmas Past (Tony Porter) who had an amazing voice (which I liked a lot) and The Ghost of Christmas Present (Jamie Taylor) who was a spitfire ball of energy and delight. Surprisingly, Christmas Future (Joseph Thompson), who is normally such a sinister character, provided some great humor in the beginning scene.
Shortly after the story is setup, Scrooge has fallen asleep and is awaiting his visits, we pause for food. Now, this was a dress rehearsal, so it can be assumed that things will go differently than they did tonight. Our food and experience was great. However, I believe at this pause, servers will deliver food (which was ordered before the show began). There is another pause later on in the show where dishes will be cleared and checks handled.
During these breaks, we were rewarded with actors caroling traditional Christmas tunes. It made the wait enjoyable and certainly added to the Christmas cheer and atmosphere.
In addition to the amazing acting and vocals by all, a highpoint of the evening came when Belle (Emily Stevenson) leaves Scrooge and sings a heartfelt song (“Silent Prayer”). After the production, it was mentioned that this is an original work and it was the first time the song was performed publicly. Commendations should be given for being brave enough to include local art and talent in this production. Brava! I will be buying this song as soon as it is available on their website.
The choice of the director (Beth Bruner) to bring in audience members as part of the production worked wonderfully. In addition, the use of the area was interactive and helped the audience feel part of the production not just spectators of a show on a stage. It is easy for costumes to look like costumes, especially in smaller productions but the makeup, hair and costumes were all done and truly lent to the feel of the Dickens era.
The actors need just a few more rehearsals as lines were stumbled on a few times but as this was a dress rehearsal, I am sure that these kinks will be worked out in plenty of time for their first production. In addition, the show felt just a little rushed. Even though many are familiar with the story, there was much left untold. Dinner breaks aside, the show ran just over an hour. More time to get to know the characters, especially Scrooge, may have made his transformation more heartfelt and meaningful.
However, tonight ended on a perfect note with the darling Tiny Tim (Dominic Zullo) sweetly calling out “God bless us, every one!”
If you are looking for a fun way to spice things up this December, add a little ‘season’ to your dinner by attending Salty Dinner Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol. The talent was great, the story is classic and the message is what all of us need to hear during the hustle and bustle of Christmas craziness.