A Christmas Carol
Boston must have been very good this year to deserve the Trinity Rep's all new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. This new production by Artistic Director Oskar Eustis, with original music and lyrics by Amanda Dehnert, runs in tandem with the Adrian Hall/Richard Cumming version that perpetuates a 27 year old tradition back home in Providence.
With Stacy Keach's journey as Ebenezer Scrooge at its emotional center, this retelling of the classic Charles Dickens story is a trip worth taking. Using all the technical and decorative glories of Emerson College's newly restored Cutler Majestic Theatre to full advantage, the production feels quite at home here.
By re-imagining Scrooge's warehouse as a Victorian factory-cobbled together by Eugene Lee, the best purveyor of Victorian factories there ever was-we are off to a running start. Tiny Tim is the victim of an industrial accident here, and Scrooge has a factory full of down trodden men, women and children to contend with, not just a single beleaguered bookkeeper.
But that's only the beginning of what is in store for the hapless Scrooge - and for us. Jacob Marley's tormented spirit doesn't disappoint when it appears from the smoky bowels of the "other world" beneath the stage. Nor does the lovely Ghost of Christmas Past as she floats through the memories of Scrooge's youth. And what a delicious great green treat the Ghost of Christmas Present turns out to be as he allows Scrooge to participate, unseen, in everyone else's merriment.
This ensemble of Trinity company members, well known Boston local actors and two rotating groups of a half dozen children slip effortlessly in and out of dozens of roles representing the inhabitants of Scrooge's miserable life as well as the "bits of beef," "blots of mustard," and "fragments of an underdone potato" haunting his dreams.
Director Kevin Moriarity makes an admirable effort to meld the occasionally discordant mélange of narrative, dramatic scenes, dance and song into a whole. The traditional sounding Christmas tunes offered by composer Dehnert and the exuberant choreography of Luis Perez are welcome additions, beautifully executed by this multi-talented company.
But now that it's on its feet, the creators might want to rethink the balance of those story-telling elements, especially the use of dissonant choral interludes rather than the more compelling narrative passages for transitions. The set pieces could be even better utilized, and costume designer Deborah Newhall might want to add some variety to the rags covering everyone's Victorian finery in the factory scenes and add some age to Scrooge's pristine black suit to better show his uncaring personality.
The final two sections seem less well thought out, in general, as if the creative team wrapped the last few gifts after running out of tape and ribbon. "Stave IV: The Last of the Three Spirits" is enhanced by a surprising representation of Christmas Future and has some delightful macabre humor, but the glimpse of Bob Cratchit's family without Tiny Tim is tiresome and the eventual return to the present doesn't match the joy and wonder of Keach's delightfully reformed Scrooge.
This is perhaps very much a work-in-progress and will continue to evolve should it became an annual fixture at the Majestic. One problem that may never be overcome, however, is figuring out how to deck the stage in enough Christmas regalia to outshine the theatre itself, already a Christmas treat even without the wreaths adorning its side boxes.
A Christmas Carol produced by Trinity Rep is at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, Boston now through Saturday, December 27th. Performances are Tuesday - Sunday evenings and Monday, December 22nd at 7:30pm with matinees on Saturdays & Sundays as well as Tuesday, December 23rd and Wednesday, December 24th at 2:00pm. Ticket prices range from $15.00 - $68.00 and can be purchased at www.maj.org, at the Cutler Majestic Box Office, 219 Tremont St. in Boston or by calling Telecharge.com at 1-800-233-3123.
Broadway in Boston members can purchase discounted adult and children's tickets by calling 617-880-2400. Information for other discounts for groups of 20 or more is available by calling 617-482-8616.