What better way to celebrate Hanukkah than to see Theatre IV’s “A Christmas Carol”? Of course, given the myriad ways to spell Hanukah, perhaps Barksdale’s “Spelling Bee” would be more appropriate?
Anyway, I just needed an excuse to mention “A Christmas Carol” because I haven’t really talked about it in depth. There are many things I really love about this production:
♥ Joe Inscoe. How can you not love Joe? His Scrooge is kind of unique in my opinion. Maybe because Joe has such a genuine goodness to him, I think his Scrooge comes across less an evil ogre and more a seriously wounded individual, which then lends more poignancy to the scenes of Christmas past. It may be a subtle thing, and maybe just something I read into the performance, but still, it makes for a particularly effective variation on the old theme in my opinion.
♥ The matching of the Ebeneezers – from Eric Pastore to Chris Stewart to Joe – is an awesome bit of casting by Chase Kniffen. Particularly when Chris and Joe are onstage together, you can totally imagine Chris as a younger Joe. Both are charismatic and engaging in similar ways.
♥ In contrast to my esteemed critical cohort, Ms. Haubenstock, I love Ali Thibodeau’s big solo as Belle, perhaps because I’d probably love almost any opportunity for a big solo for Ali. I also heard influences from “Beauty in the Beast” in some of the music but it wasn’t in “Look Into Your Heart,” but more a touch of “Be Our Guest” in the beginning of the Fezziwig party song.
♥ The “Peace, Peace, Peace” dovetail with “Silent Night” is pretty brilliant work by Jason Marks and one of my favorite pieces of music I’ve heard in the theater in a while. And not just because my son starts the whole thing out (though that undoubtedly has some influence). Mostly, I just think it’s an ingenius melding of old and new that enhances both. Nicely done, Mr. Marks!
♥ David Janeski as both Marley and Bob Cratchit. My love of Marley’s ghost may have as much to do with the technical elements – great makeup and costume, cool entrace and exit – as David, but for Cratchit, it’s all about the acting. I’ve appreciated Mr. Janeski’s work in several productions but I don’t know that I’ve ever managed to point him out specifically. Here, he encompasses the heart and soul of the production – the loyal and steadfast worker, the warm and affectionate father, the lover of the season even in the face of adversity – and does a fantastic job of it. The extent to which an audience falls in love with the Cratchit family largely has to do with Bob (and maybe a bit of the the little hobbling boy as well) and my sense is that audiences are loving these Cratchits.
♥ Chris Stewart’s ghost of Xmas-Yet-To-Come. Scary? Hell to the yeah! Nice work by Chris and great idea of Chase’s to put such a frightening face on the typically faceless future.
There is a lot to talk about with this production and plenty of elements that I like, some that I think are just OK, and even a couple I do not particularly like at all. But the fact that I can list off a half-dozen that I love without even straining is an indication of a winner in my book. If you haven’t seen it, make a point of checking it out. Only two more weekends!