Regional Reviews: Phoenix
The Christmas story of Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future never gets old. While there are dozens of theatrical versions of this tale, ATC is presenting a straightforward production in which McFadzen recites Dickens' original story to us. But she doesn't just stand and read the story, she hurls herself across the stage using her adept body language and strong voice inflection to not only become the numerous characters but to add dramatic and moving moments to the narrative. Without any overelaborate theatricality to get in the way of this timeless tale of redemption, it has the essence of the novel come to life.
Dickens shows how the effects that visits from four ghosts, including his former business partner Marley, help the miserly and selfish businessman Scrooge see the mistakes of his past and better understand the less fortunate people around him, especially his employee Bob Cratchit and Cratchit's young crippled son Tiny Tim.
Under Matthew Wiener's expert direction, McFadzen does an excellent job of portraying not only all of the shadings and layers of Scroogefrom gruff, conflicted, sad, and miserable to reflective, joyful, and introspective once the ghosts work their magic on himbut also every other character in the story as well. She exudes warmth as Cratchit and Tim; instills Marley with a sense of dread and suffering; brings a mysterious other world aura to the ghosts; and creates dozens of other characters that are full of life, love, and laughter. McFadzen's eyes and face are fascinating to watch and she constantly changes her voice and body language to add shadings and layers to the many characters she plays. In doing so she doesn't miss a beat in becoming any of these roles, providing rich, touching, and distinctive portrayals of every character, young and old.
Paul Black's scenic design is minimalist, using just a large desk and coat rack, thus never getting in the way of McFadzen's ability to tell the story. While the set is spare, Black's lighting designs are impressive and always changing, with the use of shadows and shafts of light quite effective in portraying the various locations of the story. Kish Finnegan's costumes are rich, with the three outfits McFadzen wears adding to the part of Scrooge and the other characters as well as the part of the narrator. The sound design from Brian Jerome Peterson is lush and evocative, including a chilling echo effect for Marley and the sounds of bells, chimes, and the rustling wind to fill the space with the noises of Scrooge's life.
A Christmas Carol is a wonderful story of how it is never too late to change for the better and, consequently, how, by doing so, we can also change the lives of those around us. With Dickens' original words, McFadzen's glorious acting abilities, and Wiener's assured direction, ATC's production is a beautiful throwback to the traditional form of storytelling where only the talents of one person and some exceptional lighting and sound effects come together to create a magical experience.
A Christmas Carol at Arizona Theatre Company runs through December 26th, 2015, at the Herberger Theater Center, 222 E. Monroe Street in Phoenix. Tickets can be purchased at www.arizonatheatre.org or by calling 602-2566995.
Director: Michael Wiener