Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires
A Christmas Carol
Also see Fred's review of The Brightest Thing in the World
Running just a little over an hour, this adaptation premiered in 2021 at The Legacy Theatre, and while new versions of classic works can be generally less effective than established adaptations, this A Christmas Carol is an exception. The songs are tuneful and enjoyable and the book is quite moving and contains many humorous moments as well. The production also works because of a strong 11-person cast (many of whom play more than one role) skillfully directed by Keely Baisden Knudsen and because the design elements are so handsome. The chief asset, however, is the performance of James Andreassi as Scrooge.
The audience first sees Scrooge as a young man (excellently portrayed by Dan Frye), and then the older Scrooge stands beside his younger self. This conceit turns out to be terrific and makes one care even more about the character. James Andreassi is great from the moment he takes the stage and he makes Scrooge's transformation from a miser to a generous man feel natural and believable. Andreassi also shines in the songs "Humbug" and "Canney Take It." By the conclusion, Andreassi has the audience completely won over and the results are emotional and enormously satisfying.
The supporting cast is likewise quite fine. Standouts include Betzabeth Castro as Belle, the younger Scrooge's fiancée, and she delivers her character's big number, "Set You Free," beautifully. Chris Lemieux is wonderful both as Jacob Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Keely Baisden is ideal as the Ghost of Christmas Past, especially in the song, "Family Bonds." Tiny Tim is touchingly played by Emery Knudsen, while Josiah Rowe is just perfect as Bob Cratchit. In smaller parts, Kiersten Bjork, Liviana Knudsen, Erica Pajonas, and Todd McNeel are also good.
The two-level set is stylishly designed by Jamie Burnett, who is also responsible for the striking lighting design. The extravagant and gorgeous costumes are credited to June Gold and Jimmy Johansmeyer. Indeed, this show looks grand and is smoothly staged throughout. The musical direction is taken on sensationally by David Bell and the mixture of new songs and holiday favorites sounds great.
A Christmas Carol at The Legacy Theatre is a significant achievement for its creators and helps to distinguish this theater company as one to watch. Beyond the pleasures of the show, after the bows, the company leads the audience in a sing-along of "Deck the Halls" and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." All of this puts one in a festive mood and makes A Christmas Carol a must-see show for the holidays.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 11, 2022, at The Legacy Theatre, 128 Thimble Island Rd., Branford CT. For tickets and more information, please visit www.legacytheatrect.org.