LOGAN — Christmas time is here, and with this wonderful season comes many beloved traditions. For many this includes going to see Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. If you are looking for a wonderful production of A Christmas Carol, head to Logan to the Ellen Eccles Theatre presented by Lyric Rep from the Caine College of the Arts at Utah State University. Using an adaptation by Sid Perkes on the original story by Charles Dickens, Director Richie Call provides a visual delight of traditional Dicken’s Christmas time in London and a story that will warm your heart with good will to all men.
The beloved story of Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, and Tiny Tim has been around for almost one hundred and eighty years and is one that almost everyone knows well. The masterful storyteller, Charles Dickens, weaves a story of humanities needs, cruelty, and suffering with four spirits who haunt Scrooge on Christmas Eve night. The three ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future show Scrooge the consequences of his choices throughout his life which affected not only his life but those around him. Scrooge determines to change his humbug ways and finds joy in life and Christmas again. This story of Scrooge’s transformation is timeless and told in a way which makes us all reflect on our own lives, the choices we make, and the joy of Christmas time.
Center stage for the night was Paul T. Mitri in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge. Mitri’s mean and cruel portrayal of Scrooge in the counting house was harsh and bitter. As Scrooge grumbled about Christmas time to his cheerful nephew Fred, played by Andrew Moody, Mitri portrays a focused and tyrannical business man with no need for Christmas or frivolous family parties. Mitiri produced emotions that were strongly felt through his portrayal of Scrooge’s repentance and weeping as he knelt in the graveyard above his own grave. The dark and heavy feelings of this scene were completely transformed into feelings of gleeful joy as Scrooge realizes he is not dead and that he has a second chance at life. Scrooge is giddy with delight was he declares “I don’t know what to do… I am a baby.” His rapturous delights of bringing joy to others is captivating. Yet his declaration to Bob Cratchit of “I am going to raise your salary” followed by his giggles of insane laughter was sensational.
Bob Cratchit was played by Sumner Shoell, with optimistic love for his family and life. His inability to blame Scrooge for his lot in life shows his character to be of the best of men. Tiny Tim, played by David Hernandez, was sweet and cute as he hobbled around on his crutch with his leg turned in sideways. The Cratchit family kids sang a lovely rendition of Silent Night that may have been my favorite carol for the evening. Brandon Foxworth was large and imposing as he played the role of Jacob Marley. The suffering and unrest of Marley’s ghost were strongly portrayed as Foxworth wailed about Marley’s lot in death, weighed down by chains hung with various items from his life as a greedy businessman. Foxworth also voiced the Spirit of Christmas Present with a deep and jovial voice full of joyful chuckles. A very jolly and lively Fezziwig was played by Micah Coombs, wearing a large curly white and light brown wig which complemented his cheery character. The happy and cheerful family of Mr. Fezziwig shows him to be a generous business man who delights in the joy of giving and merriment. Beautiful dresses for the Fezziwig women designed by Nancy Hills and Lydia Semler show the Fezziwig family of middle class, yet still well dressed in their appearance.
The show was truly memorable with the extremely large puppets of the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future designed by Dennis Hassan and J.S. Peterson. The Spirit of Christmas Past was portrayed with a ghost-like puppet of a girl with a flowing white gown and sleeves, white hair, and a haunting face that was lit up. Although I have always imagined this character as young and childlike, this spirit was more chilling and creepy. Two people dressed in black maneuvered her puppet to fly across the stage and into the night sky in a very believable and mystical way.
Later in the evening, large set pieces of the town houses were rolled away, and many audience members clapped with delight as the Spirit of Christmas Present entered from upstage. A very large and jolly looking puppet with white hair and a beard, and a cheerful face with a twinkle in its eye, was rolled forward. The puppet was robed with white fur which also trimmed its white brocade skirt. An ornate belt lay above the skirt and below the puppets bare, chiseled chest. A lit crown of twigs adorned the head of this impressive and jovial character which used a few people to maneuver. Overall this puppet created a very monumental prop that filled the stage with its jubilant presence.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was a large, broad shouldered puppet draped in black ragged robes and tulle with a black skeleton face and large black skeleton-like hands which hung down near to the floor. The low moaning and wind-like sounds projected as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was on stage created an ominous feeling that was eerily felt, especially as the Cratchit family mourned the loss of Tiny Tim.
Large set pieces designed by Dennis Hassan were built to look like the Tudor style homes of London and would rotate around to show the inside of the dingy homes idealizing Dickens’s London. Technical Director Amy Critchfield used projections on the set which were very intriguing. The changing projection from the lion headed door knocker to Marley’s face seemed to show more than Marley’s face, which seemed a little odd. Projections of snow falling, and of the characters from Young Scrooge’s books, were a delightful contrast to the swirling and mysterious projections during Marley’s visit, showing Scrooge’s feelings of fear and disorientation. I was hoping for a projection of Scrooge’s name on the tombstone when he realized the name on the stone was his own. However, no name was projected or readable.
The beginning of the show started off strong with Narrator 1, played by Ashlynn Rober, narrating a clear dictation of the story, yet fell flat fast as the ensemble came in singing ‘Deck the Halls’. Whether due to the microphones acting up at the beginning of the show, or a lack of confidence in the carolers, this first song could have been stronger to match the level of the narrator’s strong beginning.
A note about the programs: First off, many theaters are going paperless with the programs and are using QR codes to send patrons to a digital program. As I entered the theatre and sat down for the show, I was not made aware of any program by the many ushers, or from an announcement from the theatre. I went in search of it online, but couldn’t find it. At intermission, I went searching for the program, and was able to ask an usher who pointed me back to one pillar in the lobby with a QR code posted. This was easily missed on the way in. I understand that posting QR codes all over the walls of such a beautiful theatre can look tacky, however, I feel patrons need to be able to easily find the program. The people who have worked so hard on the play should be recognized for their hard work. Also, the font used in the program for the cast and the production team was extremely hard to read both on my phone and the computer, making it almost unreadable until I zoomed in at almost full screen. I would recommend using a different font.
A Christmas Carol at the Ellen Eccles Theatre is a delight this holiday season that will fill your heart with Christmas cheer. Don’t delay in catching this timeless classic of Christmas tradition as it will only be around for this weekend. Come delight in the classic storytelling of a Dickens’s Christmas and join in Tiny Tim in declaring, “God Bless Us, Everyone!”