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Review of "A Christmas Carol," 2004

              Tuesday, November 30, 2004

‘Carol’ conveys spirit of redemption

THEATER REVIEW

By Paul Kolas Telegram & Gazette Reviewer

 

‘A Christmas Carol’

Rating: Good job

Written by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Jack Neary, musical direction by Fred Frabotta, musical arrangements by Jim Rice. Performaces: Thursday, Dec. 23, 7 p.m., Fridays, Dec. 1-17, 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 3, 2 p.m., Saturdays, Dec. 4, 11 and 18,

3 p.m. and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 5, 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12 and 19, 1 and 4 p.m..

At Foothills Theatre Company, Worcester Common Outlets mall, 100 Front St., Worcester. Tickets: $29 adults, $14.50 children.

 

 

WORCESTER— Foothills Theatre has trimmed all the extraneous largesse out of this year’s edition of “A Christmas Carol,” resulting in a fleet 90-minute-plus production that still retains the essence of Dickens’ redemptive tale.

John Davin’s portrayal of Scrooge is as indelible as ever, maybe more so, since he seems to take extra care to snarl and then preen with delight around the stage after his spiritual baptism by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. Many of those who have graced the show in recent years are back, including Wil Darcangelo as Bob Crachit, Cory Scott as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, Stephanie Carlson as Scrooge’s former beau Belle, Shana Carr as Fred’s wife Dorothy, Colleen Kelley as Scrooge’s chambermaid Gladys, Dawn Tucker as Mrs. Crachit, and Michael Dell’Orto as the Ghost of Jacob Marley.

One might well ask, how does this production compare to those in the past? For the most part, judging by Sunday afternoon’s performance, favorably, especially since Davin seems to take it upon himself to invest Scrooge with an extra measure of glee when he transforms from parsimonious ogre to reborn humanist. This has always been a showcase for Davin’s singular portrait of Scrooge, and he seems to have given the old miser more room to ad-lib and embellish his character, as when he tosses a money bag to a young lad to buy the biggest Christmas turkey in the poultry market and the boy drops it. Davin calls out “nice catch,” followed by “almost.” When he wakes up from his otherworldly ordeal with the ghosts, he’s more effusive than ever in the joy of being granted a second chance to be a good soul. He’s vital to the success of this production, and has an unerring way of connecting with the audience.

There is less time devoted to the cavalcade of ghosts wringing Scrooge from his bed, so they perform their enlightening duties with more efficient dispatch. Twelve-year-old Maya Morales is wonderfully assured as the Ghost of Christmas Past, displaying both a playfulness and wonder at her ability to conjure up the images of Scrooge’s childhood and apprenticeship at Fezziwig’s. Bob Dolan doubles as both Fezziwig and the Ghost of Christmas Present, playing the latter with regal pomp and purpose. Nathan Colby makes a very able Ghost of Christmas Future, but the show seems to lag for a few moments during his segment, as Bob Crachit mourns over the small coffin of Tiny Tim. Michael Dell’Orto is once again frightful as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, although it was difficult at times to hear what he was saying because of the reverberative sound effect of his voice booming a warning to his former employer.

Other standouts include Colleen Kelley’s colorful portrait of Gladys, who has ratcheted her level of impudence as Scrooge’s chambermaid up another notch, explaining to him she’s serving him “soup” with “bits of beef” in a way that is pure inflective sarcasm. Cory Scott generates much empathy as nephew, Fred, who is determined to instill the spirit of Christmas in his uncle against all odds. Stephanie Carlson once again registers strongly as Belle, the girl Scrooge let go of in favor of financial gain. Wil Darcangelo etches Bob Crachit with the right blend of obsequiousness toward his boss and tender regard for his family, notably Tiny Tim. Dawn Tucker, as Mrs. Crachit, skillfully walks the fine line between dismay and tolerance for her husband’s boss. Shana Carr is a radiant presence as Fred’s wife, Dorothy, and also plays a lively fiddle. Steve Gagliastro, as the Young Scrooge and Fink, brings the show to a heartfelt close with a lovely rendition of “Silent Night.”

 

One of the chief virtues of director Jack Neary’s interpretation of Dicken’s story is the connection he makes between Scrooge being unfairly blamed by his father for giving his mother the “chill” and causing her death, and Scrooge’s irrational resentment toward his nephew Fred for being born at the expense of his sister Fan’s life. It not only allows us to understand why Scrooge has become the hardened man he is, but enlivens and deepens his positive transformation.