The jack-o-lanterns are being thrown away, we’ve had our first snowfall of the season, and we even have some all-holiday-music-all-the-time on the radio. As if that weren’t enough, all for One productions has opened A Christmas Carol, running through Nov. 18.
The Charles Dickens story was adapted by Doris Baizley, and the show is a presentational “play within a play.” The conceit of the familiar story of Ebeneezer Scrooge and his spiritual journey of redemption is that an early 20th century theatre company is putting on the show.
The play opens with the company’s Stage Manager (Peter Meyer) and Prop Boy (Jack Hanson) setting out the props. The Director (Nate Chen) introduces the rest of the cast, cleverly using prose from Dickens’ original 19th century story.
The “actor” who is to play Scrooge has unexpectedly left the company, leaving the appropriately curmudgeonly Stage Manager to fill in. Similarly, the company’s Tiny Tim has gone, and his role is filled by the Prop Boy.
The stage action is also cleverly done. Sound effects are provided by performers offstage, but visible, playing hand bells or rattling chains. Visual effects and background characters are provided by the three Clowns (Ruth Fearnow, Patience Fischer, and Megan Speith), who range in style from comedic to tragic and use a variety of voices and accents — and in one case, a puppet.
Meyer is the quintessential Scrooge, walking the fine line of detestable to genuinely sympathetic and eventually lovable. Hanson is a sharp young actor whose British accent and stage presence rival those of his adult counterparts.
The rest of the cast—Matt Derby, Naomi Eddy, Dennis Nichols, Jennifer Netting, Jonathan Young, and Whitnie Twigg—are all excellent as the past and present characters that come in and out of Scrooge’s life, helping him realize how he lost himself and allowing him to find himself again.
The audience is intentionally drawn into the story, as director Lauren Nichols explains in her curtain speech. They are sometimes addressed directly from the stage, asked to join in dance, and are encouraged to sing along with the frequent Christmas carols sung by the cast.
At only 90 minutes long with no intermission, it’s the perfect family treat to get you in the holiday spirit even before next week’s turkey dinner.
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