Christmas ghosts galore
A Christmas Carol and Every Christmas Story Ever Told (And Then Some!)
Sacramento, CA 95816
To paraphrase Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol is a ghost story to begin with; there is no doubt whatsoever about that. In fact, Dickens’ original title was “A Christmas Carol in Prose: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas,” in which he says of his readers, “May it haunt their houses pleasantly.” And so goes the Sacramento Theatre Company’s production of A Christmas Carol; it haunts pleasantly, and manages to pierce cynical hearts during the holidays by reminding us about good people, hard times, ultimate redemption, beloved traditions and quirky ghosts.
STC manages to stick to Dickens’ vision with their take on this dark, moody tale, complete with haunting period-style carols, costumes and simple bleak staging. Above all, STC brings together a wonderful ensemble of local actors: a searing and ultimately sentimental Matt K. Miller, who has grown into his Scrooge; Gillen Morrison (Bob Cratchit); Jerry Lee (Fred); Michael RJ Campbell (Fezziwig, ghost); and those who portray various characters: Lucinda Hitchcock Cone, Orlana Klip and Maggie Hollinbeck. Then there’s SN&R’s contributing film critic, Jim Lane, as the late, unlamented Jacob Marley. All in all, this is one Christmas carol that reminds us as individuals and as a community to be good and kindhearted to both those we know and those we don’t.
In Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then Some!), don’t expect Capital Stage to give you the same kind of Scrooge. Across town, Scrooge is played by Eric Wheeler, and he’s got a whole lot more of The Simpsons’ Mr. Burns—right down to the “Release the hounds” comment—than the gravitas one usually expects. Add to that the fact that, for the entire second act, Wheeler is flipping back and forth between a Mr. Burns-style Scrooge and a Jimmy Stewart-style George Bailey, and that A Christmas Carol gets the mash-up treatment with It’s a Wonderful Life, and you’ve got a recipe for holiday hilarity.
Of course, those aren’t the only high points; any time you take on all the holiday stories, you open up a big can of, uh, candy canes. This one has the hilarious Gary S. Martinez playing everything from “Gustav the Green-Nosed Rein Goat” (there are copyright issues, you see) to the wingless-wannabe angel Clarence, with occasional trips across the stage as the Norelco Santa. Wheeler and Martinez are joined by Peter Mohrmann (and don’t arrive late, or you’ll miss his colorful Carmen Miranda take on the Ghost of Christmas Present).
And while the jokes are generally rated PG-13 (this would be a fine show for tweens and teens who think they’re “too old” for a holiday show), there’s plenty of smart stuff to keep even the most Grinch-like adult chuckling.
Whatever your choice of BHC (“beloved holiday classic”), these guys will skewer it so much that you’ll promise not to put your eye out with a BB gun, if they’ll only give you a minute to breathe.