Before you’re completely Scrooged out for the season, consider spending an enjoyable evening at the Covedale Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol. This is a faithful musical adaptation of the Christmas classic with a few new wrinkles including the addition of Charles Dickens as Narrator. Douglas Berlon (as Dickens) almost steals the show by moving the story along with wit and personality. He adds a gravatas with a wink and a nod to the audience. (For the other wrinkle, you need to see the play.)
The “Bah Humbug” guy is played by Executive Artistic Director Tim Perrino who also adapted the play from Dicken’s novella, directed the show and wrote the lyrics with music by Jeremy Helmes. The play was last produced nine years ago.
You already know the story so let’s skip to the highlights. Perrino plays Scrooge with a surly crankiness initially but, later, begins to show an enlightenment through facial expressions as the play progresses. For the play to be successful, the audience has to believe that Scrooge can change in a single night at the direction of the three ghosts. Perrino does well with the epiphany and actually sings at the end.
Jeremiah Plessinger as Bob Cratchit is becoming a favorite of mine with previous outings in Carousel and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Plessinger has a good voice and is believable as the embattled clerk of Scrooge while being tender and loving with his family, especially Tiny Tim (Dez Flynn Hutchens). Scrooge’s nephew Fred (Aaron Marshall) exudes hope and joy as he tries to convince his uncle to enjoy Christmas and come to their feast without success.
The opening number is “Dear Mr. Scrooge”, during which each of the characters is introduced and all have editorial comments about Scrooge. This song is reprised twice as other characters chime in on the commentary. There are several choruses including an adult and children’s group. The singing is good from the large cast of 27 people. “Marley’s Lament” describes Marley’s travails (Dave Woellert) and everyone joins in for “Fezziwig’s Ball” led by the host (Justin Glazer who also plays the Ghost of Christmas Present).
A definite highlight is the repeating character of Belle, Scrooge’s fiancée as a young man played by Kali Marsh, who initially sings a duet with Adult Scrooge (Christopher Wells) of the song “Finding My Way” and then reprises the song beautifully as a solo in the second act. Scrooge also sings the song later.
The Cratchit family is shown in two separate scenes, singing three juxtaposed songs “Christmas Treasures”, “Candle Carol” and “On the Streets of Bethlehem”. These scenes are joyous and poignant simultaneously sung by Plessinger, Kelsey Chandler (Mrs. Cratchit) and the other children Jaimie Swisshelm, Maggie Zink and Parker Roland. Jordan Darnell is saucy as the Ghost of Christmas Past and perky as Fred’s wife.
Act Two opens with the Ghost of Christmas Future with a number of poor people fighting over Scrooge’s belongings to “That’s Your Account” and ends with the uplifting “Bring Back Christmas” sung by the entire cast.
Theatrically, both Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Past are portrayed in an eerie light with a combination of lighting, costuming and smoke. Lighting, designed by Denny Reed, is used effectively in a number ways including, halos on the ghosts and lanterns carried by the Shrouded Chorus. The costumes by Joy Galbraith and June Hill range from affluent Victorian garb, to working clothes to an angelic dress for Christmas Past, a “Santa-like” outfit for Christmas Present and black robes for the unspeaking giant Christmas Future plus the dark and eerie dresses of the Shrouded Chorus.
With the exception of the Fezziwig Ball, there is little dancing per se but there is a lot of movement choreographed by Cassidy Steele. The movements of the Shrouded Chorus addresses the dark themes of Dicken’s story about ignorance, want and extreme poverty. Those themes resonate in this production.
Overall, this is a faithful and thoughtful production which appropriately mixes joyous transformation with the underlying filth of London in the mid 1800’s.
So, buy a ticket HERE to the “Ghost Express” and transport yourself to the classic holiday musical play A Christmas Carolplaying at the Covedale Theater through December 23. Their next production is the comedy Boeing, Boeing running from January 26, 2023 through February 19.
Doug Iden is an avid, lifelong theater fan with an extensive collection of original cast albums. He also teaches classes on musical theater at OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute).