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San Francisco by Richard Connema

American Conservatory Theatre Presents
the 26th Edition of
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol

Also see Richard's review of Dirty Story

A.C.T.'s magical production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol returns to the Geary Theatre for the 26th edition of the holiday favorite. The company's associated artist and core acting member Steven Anthony Jones plays Scrooge for the third year in a row. Mr. Jones has fine-tuned the role and this year he is better than ever. The artist had a definite Jamaican accent when he first tackled the role three years ago; however, he has lost this intonation and he now sounds more like a Dickens character.

American Conservatory Theatre has performed this Christmas classic 832 times to the delight of San Franciscans and their families. During the 26 years, 775,000 persons have been enchanted by the Dickens characters on stage. During that time, 962 actors have been employed with some of ACT most beloved actors playing the role of Scrooge, including the late William Patterson and Sydney Walker. Ken Ruta, Larry Hecht, Raye Birk and Dakin Matthews have carried on the tradition of playing the old curmudgeon.

A Christmas Carol

The Christmas Carol production has 104 costumes, 91 pairs of shoes, 15 wigs and 3 facial hair combinations per performance. Fifty pounds of dry ice are used in each production, which is 2 tons per year, 52 tons during the show's entire production history. The presentation uses 15 Bay Area young people as part of the large cast. These talented youngsters come from the A.C.T. Young Conservatory to fill roles such as Tiny Tim and Boy Scrooge. They are all complete professionals when portraying their characters.

Lee Holiby's musical score plays an important part in the production. The wonderful party scene at the Fezziwig's is a pure delight with great dancing on the part of the cast. Brian Keith Russell is the epitome of a robust Fezziwig and Margaret Schenek is delightful as the vigorous Mrs. Fezziwig. Both are so full of the Christmas spirit that it flows over the audience.

Steven Anthony Jones has changed himself into the enjoyable curmudgeon who finally finds the true meaning of Christmas. The actor has almost five minutes of pure laughter that comes not only from the belly but from the heart as well. The laughter becomes infectious throughout the whole audience. Jud Williford is sparkling as Bob Cratchit and the scene of the Cratchit family at their Christmas day dinner is a beautiful and heartfelt recreation. Marilee Talkington is wonderful as Mrs. Cratchit and the children are enchanting.

Tommy A. Gomez is properly hardy as the Ghost of Christmas Present with his powerful, booming voice. Jeff Galfer plays Scrooge's nephew Fred in a bubbly manner. David Duffield and Kira Blaskovich are very good as young Scrooge and his sweetheart Belle.

Once again, Robert Blackman's toy box set is an effective piece of scenery. Sitting in the center of the stage, a pewter colored box reaches to the top of the stage with various spaces that open up to display scenes. The box itself is created in great detail, showing toys and holiday items relevant to the Victorian age. As the play progress, units of the box disappear until at the end the stage is bare before becoming a glorious riot of color with members coming out in their elegant Victorian garb to sing and dance and wish everyone a "Very Merry Christmas."

A Christmas Carol runs through December 26th at the Geary Theatre, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 415-749-2228 or visit www.act-sf.org.

Henrik Ibsen's A Dolls House opens on January 8th.


Photo: Adam Traum


Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area


- Richard Connema



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