Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
A Christmas Carol
Also see David's review of A Christmas Story
I've been fortunate to see the Festival production of this show each year for the past ten years. The production has varied, depending on who stages the production and who is playing Scrooge. Yet, always, the performance has always been moving.
Andrew May has brought nuanced changes into the production. These changes reflect the time in which we're living. When the Ghost of Christmas Present brings forward the two children, Ignorance and Want, May slows the pace of the production so that the importance of Ignorance and Want cannot be lost on the audience. Also, the production is darker on two levels. First, the lighting is dimmer. According to Dickens this is a ghost story. Of course, this is a memory play. As Scrooge remembers events in his life, those scenes move out of the darkness and into the light of half-remembrance. This is effective dramatically. However, a bit more light would make the scenes more accessible. Next, this Scrooge (Aled Davies) seems genuinely moved by his conversion. In earlier productions, when Scrooge realized the errors of his life, he cavorted, danced, jumped and made a silly clown of himself. Davies leaves no room for an audience member to suspect he has not changed. Scrooge is an old man. His exuberance over learning how to share Christmas is reserved and contained. This is a more satisfying interpretation.
Andrew May continues to be one of the most gifted actors on a Cleveland stage. In addition to staging this production, he plays Bob Cratchit. He makes Cratchit bright and energetic until the end of the Cratchit scenes, when Tiny Tim dies. Then he moves the audience to feel his profound grief at the death of his child. Unfortunately, an actor cannot be on the stage and supervise a production. The person staging or directing a production needs to see the show from the back row to make sure the lighting and the movement are appropriate.
Once again, Great Lakes Theatre Festival has staged a moving production of A Christmas Carol; it is one of Cleveland's not-to-be-missed landmarks. As we face a 2010 with Want and Ignorance biting at our heels, I am reminded of Tiny Tim and his most famous line, "God Bless us every one."
A Christmas Carol at the Ohio Theatre in the Playhouse Square, Cleveland, Ohio, through December 23. Ticket information: 216-241-6000 or www.greatlakestheater.org. The Spring Repertory 2010 opens on April 8 with Bat Boy and continues with the opening of A Midsummer Night's Dream on April 22.
Great Lakes Theater Festival
- David Ritchey