By Beki Pineda
A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Written by Charles Dickens; directed by Melissa Rain Anderson. Produced by the Denver Center Theatre Company (14th and Curtis, Denver) through Dec. 24. Tickets available at 303-893-4100 or denvercenter.org.
It had been so long since I had seen the “real” CHRISTMAS CAROL that I began to feel like Scrooge himself. And if you want to see the original story, what do you do? You go to the Denver Center for their annual production. Recognizing a good thing and nurturing a Denver holiday tradition, the DCTC has presented one version or another of Dickens’ tale for 25 years. They are now using a very musical adaptation written by Richard Hellesen with music by David de Berry.
With a cast of 18 adults and eight child actors playing 61 characters, the story is told with precision and charm. The cast is led by Sam Gregory, in his second year as Scrooge. While believably miserly and mean as he turns away family and fundraisers, he quickly learns the lessons his very dead ex-partner Jacob Marley (Jeffrey Roark with one of the all-time greatest entrances) has sent him. Cloaked in a beautiful white angelic costume (lovingly designed by Kevin Copenhaver), Latoya Cameron as the Ghost of Christmas Past returns Scrooge to the mistily remembered scenes of past holiday joys and sorrows. Seeing how happy and how in love he was in his youth, he begins to realize the mistakes he made that resulted in his currently lonely existence. This ghost also provides the opportunity to revisit the annual Fezziwig Ball hosted by Michael Fitzpatrick and the cute-as-a-button Leslie O’Carroll as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, one of the liveliest scenes in the whole play.
Finding himself able to view the current Christmas Present celebrations being enjoyed by his clerk Bob Cratchit’s family and his own nephew Fred’s (Jim Poulos) friends, he finds himself being disparaged and pitied. He witnesses the Cratchit family’s love for one another despite their poverty, and marvels as Bob (Brian Vaughn) offers a toast to him. He hears Fred defend him and express sorrow that his Uncle Scrooge is missing the joy of family.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come reveals the results of a selfish life and provides the final impetus for Scrooge’s redemption. His outpouring of delirious joy at finding himself still alive and still able to make changes is a delight to behold. The happy ending is filled with joy, music and real snow.
This is a production that relies on the people in the cast and their commitment to telling the story, rather than on splashy technical tricks. While beautifully adorned in Victorian costumes for the real people and elaborate supernatural designs for the four ghosts, it is more about what the people inside those costumes are doing and thinking. The proscenium is surrounded by cutouts similar to those found on Victorian Christmas cards, which seems to make the whole production the Denver Center’s gift to its community.
If this production doesn’t warm up your holiday heart—no matter your beliefs—you are truly a Scrooge!
WOW factor: 9