Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
A Christmas Carol
Also see David's review of The Game's Afoot (Or Holmes for the Holidays)
The twenty-third annual production of the Great Lakes Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol is now playing on the stage of the Ohio Theatre, PlayhouseSquare. More than 575,000 people have seen one of the performances of A Christmas Carol.
Former Artistic Director Gerald Freedman adapted Dickens' classic to the stage. In his adaptation, there is a story within a story. The fictitious Cleaveland family meets in its Victorian parlor for Mrs. Cleaveland (Laura Perrotta) to read "A Christmas Carol." As she reads, members of the household become the characters in the story. For example, Samuels (Aled Davies), the family's butler, becomes Ebenezer Scrooge. The family name used in his version of A Christmas Carol is Cleaveland, an early spelling of the name of our city.
Sara Bruner, a member of the GLT artistic company, has staged this production based on the original direction by Freedman. Bruner includes one of the most controversial scenes in the play. In the second act, Scrooge accepts the error of his ways and celebrates his conversion into a good neighbor and friend. Sometimes Scrooge has become such a clown at that moment that he draws attention away from the seriousness of the story. Bruner leads Davies to celebrate his change without making himself a clown. This is an appropriate interpretation of a pivotal scene.
The story ends with Tiny Tim's famous line, "And God bless us every one." After she read this line, Perrotta turns to the audience and repeats the line twice. This reading is genuinely moving and evokes applause from the audience.
A Christmas Carol is a dream play and for that reason the settings and costumes are often dark. The Cleaveland family and the Cratchit family are dressed in brighter clothing. But Scrooge and many of the characters in his dreams wear dark, usually black, clothing.
For some reason people think of A Christmas Carol as a play that is appropriate for children. This production is not appropriate for those ten and younger. In early scenes, Marley's ghost appears, wearing the chains he forged in life. Marley wears long lengths of chains that drag on the floor. The Ghost of Christmas Future is 10 to 12 feet tall and dressed in dark gray robes. He leads Scrooge to a cemetery where people sell Scrooge's clothing and curtains. In this scene Scrooge discovers his name on a tombstone. This is another scene that is dramatic and appropriate for telling the story. However, I'm not sure it is a scene for little children to watch.
Freedman makes this adaptation genuinely moving and intellectually satisfying.
The production has become a holiday tradition for many, many Cleveland theatergoers. I urge readers who have the opportunity to stop by and see this stunning production. This is the Great Lakes Theater at its best.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 23, 2011 in the Ohio Theater in PlayhouseSquare, Cleveland, Ohio. For ticket Information, call 216-241-6000 or visit www.greatlakestheater.org. For ticket information, telephone 216-241-6000.
In the spring season 2012, GLT will offer The Mousetrap, Romeo and Juliet and Sondheim on Sondheim.
Great Lakes Theater - David Ritchey
- David Ritchey