Don’t be a Scrooge

Lyric Theatre presents an adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic that, through humor and poignancy, will delight even us professional Scrooges. It’s two hours of purely enjoyable theater.

When working with such dreadfully familiar, albeit first-class, material as “A Christmas Carol,” the challenge for an adapter and director is to make the story fresh. Artistic director Michael Baron, who adapted and directs the production, succeeds on every point.

His top-notch team of designers has given the production a, well, Dickensian look that’s gritty joy to behold. Entering the Plaza Theatre, you’ll notice Lee Savage’s set design reflecting the 19th-century London skyline in silhouette under Ariel Benjamin’s sensitive lighting. “Carol” literally covers a lot of ground, and Savage’s set is efficiently designed for quick changes and many special effects.

Jeffrey Meek’s costumes are richly detailed. Sound design by Josh Schmidt and Brad Poarch is realistic and ominous. You hear the wind rush ing when the door to Scrooge’s office is opened, and the ghosts are heralded by a musical phrase fitting for a David Lynch film.

Jonathan Beck Reed is a scowling Ebenezer Scrooge who has no time for do-gooders collecting for charity. He’s a hard-nosed businessman, not a psychopath, so when he is transfigured at the end, he is believable. The penitent Scrooge’s reunion with his nephew, Fred (Matthew Alvin Brown, who also plays young Scrooge), is truly affecting. After encountering the Ghost of Christmas Past, he can hardly utter “humbug.”

The supporting cast is consistently superior. Tom Huston Orr plays much put-upon clerk Bob Cratchit with extraordinary humbleness. Thomas E. Cunningham makes a great Fezziwig and a scary Jacob Marley, while Brenda Williams delights as Mrs. Fezziwig.

The ghosts who haunt Scrooge range from giddy to imposing. As the Ghost of Christmas Past, Jayme Petete never quite gets her feet on the ground, and it’s a great effect. Mandy Jiran sprinkles Christmas cheer all over as the Ghost of Christmas Present. The mysterious Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come is downright spooky.

The show employs several
young actors, whose work is notably impressive. Several traditional
carols are integrated into the show so seamlessly that when the
characters take up a tune, it sounds like the most natural thing in the
world.

Baron’s adaptation sticks close to Dickens. It should appeal to anyone who loves theater.

Larry Laneer

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