New adaptations of A Christmas Carol seem to spring up faster than you can say, “Bah, humbug!” It is a rare theater season in our community that doesn’t find a company putting forth an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ season-defining classic. afO had resisted the temptation to throw its own offering into the ring until we ran across Doris Baizley’s delightfully clever and fresh retelling, which is tailor-made for the intimacy of the black box theater where we perform.
First presented in 1977 at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, the production proved so popular that it was revived for five subsequent years.
In this version, a down-on-its-luck British travelling troupe is stranded somewhere in Europe, wondering if the show really can go on, after discovering that their Tiny Tim has been fired and their Scrooge abandoned them in Budapest. They draft an eager prop boy and a reluctant stage manager to fill the roles. The actors’ determination, some stage magic, and the power of story thus bring the play to vivid life.
Baizley’s script makes excellent use of Dickens’ most famous lines, and cleverly stages (and sometimes conflates) the key scenes in this time-honored tale of redemption. The cast of 12 play multiple roles and perform all the sound effects and incidental music live. Several cast members play English handbells, and a violinist and guitarist add accompaniments to the many carols woven into the play. This immersive production will draw the audience in to the action (sometimes literally) and encourage them to sing along.
A Christmas Carol features afO newcomers Peter Meyer as Scrooge, Matt Derby as Cratchit, Whitnie Twigg as Belle, and Jack Hanson as Tiny Tim, along with regulars Nate Chen, Naomi Eddy, Jennifer Netting, Dennis Nichols, and Jonathan Young. Ruth Fearnow, Patience Fischer, and Megan Speith play the “clowns” who move the play along in various imaginative ways.
A Christmas Carol, which is suitable for audiences of all ages, is about 90 minutes long. For tickets, contact the ArtsTix box office.