A Christmas Carol | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

A-Christmas-Carol 75Despite my familiarity with the storyline, I felt like I was experiencing this tale for the first time.

A-Christmas-Carol 500

With Christmas less than two weeks away, holiday spirit is abundant! However, Ebenezer Scrooge (Paul Kerr)—the crotchety main character of A Christmas Carol—wants no part of the festivities happening this time of year.

It is Christmas Eve, 1886, when the play opens, and rather than count the hours until the work day is over, like his employee Bob Cratchit (Dan Chevalier), Scrooge’s gruff demeanor is unfazed by the impending holiday. When visited at work by his cheerful nephew Fred (Russell Matthews), Scrooge takes Fred’s holiday greetings as insult. In fact, he states people who are plagued with cheer should boil with their Christmas pudding or have a piece of holly shoved into their hearts. And as for donating to the homeless, Scrooge suggests that the death of these individuals would better the population. That’s coming from a man who is loaded with money and sleeps with his coin purse around his neck.

Can I get a unanimous “Bah Humbug” please?!

I’ve been familiar with A Christmas Carol since a young age and have heard it and seen it over and over again in various renditions over the years. I suspect many people who will read this review have experienced the same. Yet, I have good news. Despite my familiarity with the storyline, I felt like I was experiencing this tale for the first time as I watched this splendid production. I was as mesmerized as the three small children sitting in front of me. I admit, as the show began I wondered how well it would hold the attention of these three. After all, it is a rather dark tale, and I didn’t recall it being overly humorous. Yet, all three laughed as Scrooge delivered his classic “bah humbug” line repeatedly and slurped his soup comically while eating alone in his home. Sometimes they laughed when few did, which made me laugh in response. I enjoyed watching them watch the production as much as I enjoyed watching it myself. (My point: Yes parents, it’s safe to bring the kiddos to this one!) There is much to be taken away from Scrooge’s story, no matter what your age.  

Christmas Eve night Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (Bill Saunders). Marley looks as if he has just arisen from a swamp, looking moss-covered with a green hue, and he carries chains. He warns Scrooge that if he does not see the error of his stingy and greedy ways, he will be destined to the same crummy fate in the afterlife. Marley tells him that he will be visited by three spirits—the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. Although, Scrooge tries to pass off his friend’s apparition as the result of indigestion, Marley’s words prove true when the bubbly, beautiful ghost of Christmas past (Kristin Conrad) shows up and transports Scrooge back to several moments in his past. Old Scrooge is moved to tears by the sight of himself as a child and young man, happily interacting with family and friends. We also see his greed develop. He wishes to interact with these figures, but is reminded that they are merely shadows of the past.

Next, the tall, burly, and bearded spirit of Christmas present (Michael Heath) awakens Scrooge from his restless slumber, and shows him the celebrations of his nephew Fred and his employee Bob that would occur the following day. Scrooge witnesses the warmth and optimism in Bob’s home, regardless of his family’s meager Christmas meal and the sadness surrounding the condition of Bob’s youngest son Tiny Tim (Colette Adair) who is handicap and not well. Scrooge is distraught when he is informed that Tim will not live long if he doesn’t get to a doctor. Over at his nephews, a gathering Scrooge had been invited to and turned down, guests are mocking his monster-like disposition.

Scrooge’s last visitor is the most frightening of all, standing tall as a stereotypical grim reaper. He speaks not but a few words to Scrooge and shows him loneliness and death. Although Marley had told Scrooge that these spirits would visit him over the course of three nights, when Scrooge awakens it is Christmas morning, everything he has experienced accomplished in one night.

Many of you know how this story ends, but for those of you who do not, I will not spoil the experience. (And don’t worry; despite the plot summary above, I have left out many details!)

Paul Kerr is an excellent physical actor here as Scrooge, ironically providing almost all of the comic relief despite his character’s ill temperament. He is the star here. Also good was Dan Chevalier as Bob. His portrayal of the kind, humble Bob was heart-warmingly genuine and believable. I’ve always loved this character. He has every reason to be as grumpy as Scrooge, but he is nothing but appreciative for the life he has been given.

A Christmas Carol is a period piece and the staging and costumes are wonderful representations of this. When the curtain rises the ensemble of town people are frozen in place, creating a picture of the past that, as they begin to move, comes to life before our eyes.

What I could have done without was the abundance of singing in this production. (I guess this is my personal ‘bah humbug’ of the production). Only a handful of the songs are recognizable and while the older selections speak to the time period, they are less appealing to today’s audience. It didn’t help that the words of many of these older songs were hardly discernable, seeming to run together, in severe need of better pronunciation. The choir of singers were mediocre at best. Unfortunately for all involved, the audio was spotty during the entirety of the performance, a problem that can hopefully be addressed before the remaining performances.

Regardless of these criticisms, this show is worth coming out for! It’s an excellent reminder that life is too short to let bitterness harden your heart.

Happy holidays! | Megan Washausen

A Christmas Carol runs at The Fox through December 14. For ticket information, visit http://www.fabulousfox.com/.

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