Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Phoenix

A Christmas Carol
Hale Centre Theatre

Also see Gil's reviews of Mother Hicks, Year of the Rooster, Miracle on 34th Street, Tommy J. & Sally, Pippin


Bryan Stewart and Mark Kleinman
It's December so that means there are several theatrical versions of A Christmas Carol playing throughout the Valley. Hale Centre Theatre's annual production opened last week and Hale pulls out every trick they have to bring this well-known tale to magical life in a glorious production full of emotional resonance.

The classic Christmas story of Scrooge as he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future never gets old. For those who need a refresher course: Dickens' tale of the miserly and selfish businessman Scrooge shows how the effects that visits from four ghosts, including his former business partner Marley, help him 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. Spoiler alert: Scrooge is able to overcome the errors of his ways and finds redemption. In doing so he helps not only himself but those around him. Set on Christmas Eve, it is a wonderful story of how it is never too late to change and consequently change the lives of those we touch as well.

Hale's adaptation is faithful to the Dickens novel and doesn't rush many of the important scenes, letting them play out naturally. There are also several carols sprinkled throughout the show which adds some lovely, pleasant musical moments to the show.

The Hale production is double cast, and the night I attended the "Green" cast was performing.

Mark Kleinman makes a great impression as Scrooge. He does an excellent job in portraying the gruff, heartless man, yet shows how the ice slowly starts to melt around his heart as the Ghosts take him on this journey. It is a well-rounded performance that shows the change in the character, with the changes being perfectly made in time to the story.

Hale's production has a very large cast, with many playing multiple parts and a few narrators used effectively. The remainder of the main "Green" cast includes Bryan Stewart as Bob Cratchit, Mark Hackman as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Andrew Lipman as Marley's Ghost, Cami Anglemyer as the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Vinny Chavez as Scrooge's nephew Fred.

Stewart is superb as Cratchit, bringing a wonderful sense of love and warmth to the part, especially in the scenes with the Cratchit family. He also delivers a beautiful rendition of "What Child is This?" Lipman adds a touch of comedy to his portrayal of Marley's ghost, which makes it less frightening for the younger audience members but still successful. Hackman is full of life as Christmas Present while Anglemyer brings the appropriate sense of melancholy to her lovely take on the Ghost of Christmas Past. Chavez is excellent as Scrooge's nephew, providing a sense of glee and joy that are a nice counterpoint to the stern and rigid Scrooge.

In smaller parts, Annalise Webb is lovely as Belle, the girl Scrooge almost married, adding a perfect sense of reason in her line delivery. Julian Peña and Monica Domschot are a hoot in the party scene as Topper and Topper's girl, and young Jacob Stewart (Bryan Stewart's actual son) is a complete natural in the several parts he plays, including a fine turn as the boy Scrooge.

The in the round setting at Hale can sometimes prove a bit difficult when staging a show with many scene changes and locations, and this play has many, but director David Dietlein stages his scenes perfectly so everything flows like clockwork. The intimate setting also draws the audience into the story. Hale has spared no expense or theatrical device in bringing the beloved story to life. The range of theatrical effects include smoke, snow, and even a touch of fireworks, and the excellent set design from Dietlein surrounds us in detailed elements like building silhouettes, brick facade walls, and the skyline of London. Jeff A. Davis' lighting effects not only are vast, delivering beautiful colors, but also make us specifically focus on things like the staircases where the cast deliver some lovely carols during the many scene changes. Corrin Dietlein's costumes are abundant and perfect. Cambrian James provides a small amount of choreography that adds nice touches to a few of the larger ensemble musical scenes.

My only quibbles are that some of the accents in the ensemble aren't consistent and Dietlein doesn't include the iconic ending image of Tiny Tim riding on Scrooge's shoulder.

Still, with excellent leads, a large cast that portray multiple parts, and superb creative elements, Hale's A Christmas Carol is a great adaptation of Dickens' classic tale and a perfect way to spend the holidays.

The Hale Centre Theatre production of A Christmas Carol runs through December 24th, 2014, with performances at 50 W. Page Avenue in Gilbert. Tickets can be ordered at www.haletheatrearizona.com or by calling (480) 497-1181

Directed by David Dietlein
Music Director: Lincoln Wright
Set Designer: David Dietlein
Costume Designer: Corrin Dietlein
Lighting Designer: Jeff A. Davis
Choreography, Wigs & Make-Up: Cambrian James
Stage Manager: Emmanuel Antillon

Cast:
Mark Kleinman: Ebenezer Scrooge
Andrew Lipman : Marley/Old Joe
Vinny Chavez: Fred
Bryan Stewart: Bob Cratchit
Robyn Bydalek: Mrs. Cratchit/Mrs. Fezziwig
Abby Stewart: Martha Cratchit/Fezziwig Party
Jeremy Rowley: Peter Cratchit/Sled Boy
Oriana Valcamp: Belinda Cratchit
Josh Mortensen: Doug Cratchit
Annika Almquist: Carol Cratchit/Little Fan/Sled/Want
Jared Mortensen: Tiny Tim/Ignorance
Jacob Stewart: Boy Scrooge/Beggar Boy/Boy in Courtyard
Cami Anglemyer: Past/Laundress
Mark Hackman: Present/Businessman 3/Poulterer
Malcolm Hooper: Future/Backstage
Brent Graham: Mr. Fezziwig/Coal Vendor/Undertaker
Isaac Dowdle: Jenkins/Charity 2/Businessman 2/Charles
Nate Dutson: Dick Wilkins/Ensemble
James Gish: Young Scrooge/Narrator 1
Heidi-Liz Johnson: Fred's Wife/Ensemble
Annalise Webb: Belle/Narrator 2/Christina
Julian Peña: Topper/Charity 1/Businessman 1
Monica Domschot: Topper's Girl/Ensemble
Jeff Huffman: Robert/Ensemble
Harley Barton: Victoria/Ensemble
Laura Soldan: Charwoman/Narrator 3


Photo Nick Woodward - Shaw /Hale Centre Theatre

--Gil Benbrook


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for Phoenix


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