A Christmas Carol

Rated 4.0

There’s a reason to stick with tradition: It works. At least when we’re talking about Dickens, Scrooge and Christmas. Richard Hellesen’s adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, with music by the late David DeBerry, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year with a bang-up production that emphasizes the traditional. The key for this production is to stick with the winners—in this case, Dickens’ language, right down to the “bit of undigested beef” at the root of the ghostly visitations; a Victorian sensibility in costume and dance, and a straight-up reading of this well-known merger of feel-good Christmas tale and cautionary ghost story.

The production features an outstanding Scrooge in Matt K. Miller, who pulls off the transformation from the pre-visitation crotchety curmudgeon to the reborn and downright sprightly “new man” of Christmas morning. His excitement at a second chance is palpable, and he resists the ghosts just enough to make the transformation work.

This production also features not one, but two show-stealing turns by STC’s managing director, Mark Standriff, as both the rambunctious Mr. Fezziwg and the magisterial Ghost of Christmas Present. His jolly good nature doesn’t diminish the threat of his two ghostly “children,” Want and Ignorance, that threaten more than merely our Christmas cheer. Gillen Morrison brings a touch of the hang-dog to long-suffering Bob Cratchit. And, while the effervescent Katie Rubin seems repressed as his wife, she lets loose as the whimsical Ghost of Christmas Past.

A bit too much fog in spots and a tad of over-amplified music were the only real glitches on opening night, sure to be quickly corrected. The energetic choreography retains the flavor of Victorian England, as does DeBerry’s music, but the point of the story remains intact and timeless: we are reminded (unfortunately, only once a year) that the state of our souls depends on caring for the less fortunate. Charity isn’t about the needy; it’s a gift to ourselves. God bless us, every one!