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Regional Reviews by David Ritchey

A Christmas Carol
Great Lakes Theatre Festival

Also see David's review of A Christmas Story

A Christmas Carol
Aled Davies
The Great Lakes Theatre Festival again delivers a striking, emotional production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (1812-1870). This is the twenty-first year the company has offered A Christmas Carol to the Cleveland area. Gerald Freedman originally adapted and directed this version of the Dickens classic. Andrew May has staged the 2009 production.

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
A Christmas Carol
December 4-23, 2009
Based on the story by Charles Dickens
Adapted and Directed by Gerald Freedman
Staged by Andrew May
Father, who will become Bob Cratchit: Andrew May
Mother, will become Fred's Wife: Laura Perrotta
Miss Elizabeth, who will become Fan: Jennifer Noble
Master Richard, who will become Dick Wilkins: Danny Henning,
Miss Abigail: Allison Hoffman,
Master Robert: Jackson Daugherty
Miss Polly: Natalie Welch
Master William, who will become Tiny Tim: Cameron Danielle Nelson and Sarah Straffon
Samuels, who will become Ebenezer Scrooge: Aled Davies
Muggeridge, who will become Christmas Present: David Anthony Smith
Jane, who will become Mrs.Cratchit: Jessica L. Cope
Nephew Fred: Kevin Crouch
First Charity Man: M. A. Taylor
Second Charity Man: Darryl Lewis
Streetsinger: Matt Lillo
Sled Boy: Rebecca Oet
Skate Girl: Taylor Marie Dodus
Marley: Dougfred Miller
Christmas Past: Matt Lillo
Boy Scrooge: Rebecca Oet
Adolescent Scrooge: Jackson Daugherty
Belle: Kathleen Rooney
Mr. Fezziwig: Darryl Lewis
Mrs. Fezziwig: Maryann Nagel
Fezziwig guests: Kevin Crouch, Jessica L. Cope, Jackson Daugherty, Allison Hoffman, Jennifer Noble, M. A. Taylor, Laura Perrotta, Kathleen Rooney, David Anthony Smith
Young Scrooge: Kevin Crouch
Peter Cratchit: Danny Henning
Martha Cratchit: Jennifer Noble
Belinda Cratchit: Allison Hoffman
James Cratchit: Jackson Daugherty
Sarah: Natalie Welch
Miner: Dudley Swetland
Lighthouse Keeper: Dougfred Miller
Helmsman: Darryl Lewis
Cynthia: Maryann Nagel
Topper: Dudley Swetland
Want: Natalie Welch
Ignorance: Rebecca Oet
Christmas Future: Matt Lillo
Rich Men: Darryl Lewis, Dougfred Miller, Dudley Swetland
Soloist: Sarah DiFiore
Joe the Keeper: M. A. Taylor
Laundress: Maryann Nagel
Charwoman: Jessica L. Cope
Undertaker: Dougfred Miller
Debtor: David Anthony Smith
Delivery Boy: Cameron Andrew Howell
Street Children: Sarah DiFiore and Eva Cristiana Holtkamp


Photo: Roger Mastroianni

- David Ritchey



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