A Holiday favorite has always been “A Christmas Carol” with as many adaptations for stage as stages to present the show. At the Jewel Box ‘Theatre Richard Lemin directs his own adaptation of Dickens’ classic with no additions, subtractions or alterations. The result is a very refreshing production delighting the audience.
“A Christmas Carol” is well known enough to need little description, but as a brief reminder, Scrooge is a miserly and greedy successful businessman. His clerk, Bob Cratchit is a long-suffering employee with a family he can barely support on his meager salary. It is especially difficult as the youngest child; Tiny Tim is ill and unable to walk unaided. Scrooge is visited by three spirits in the night. Through them, Scrooge morphs into the cheerful fun-loving generous fellow he was always intended to become.
Mason Imboden is the angelic Tiny Tim; however Imboden’s interpretation reflects the endearing imp that makes Tiny Tim so real. Imboden also plays the child Scrooge with empathy. Brother Peter (also the older boy version of Ebenezer Scrooge) is very well played by Jackson Gifford. The Cratchit daughters are delightful representations of the period with Sarah Fryer as Belinda and Jordan Absher as Martha. These four create a true and timeless example of family dynamics. Their stage presence is solid and they are very comfortable in their roles on a minimalist set that is often difficult for younger actors.
Verna Wycherley is Jenny. Her subtle yet vibrantly expressive approach is masterful and she certainly keeps up the pace set by the youngsters with dignity and solidarity. She is a Grande dame of the theatre and her addition to the cast is ideal.
Peter Fischaber, Vincent Johns, Carol McDonald and Taylor Lowell are perfectly cast in their various roles and communicate with great believability especially in those instances requiring miming without props.
There is great spirit in this version of “A Christmas Carol” but the actual spirits (and one ghost) are instructive rather than menacing, interesting and individual. The Ghost of Jacob Marley and the Spirit of Christmas Present is played by Randall Hunter. His individuality separates each character expertly. Deborah Franklin as the Spirit of Christmas Past is unique with just the right mix of maternalism and tough love. Guy Mitchell is the Spirit of Christmas Yet-to-Come and his performance is both light and deep.
The Cratchit parents are Tad Thurston and Amandanell Bold. Thurston is excellent as the loving father, Bob Cratchit, doing his best and Bold portrays Mrs. Cratchit (as well as Mrs. Fezziwig) with strength. adhesion and love in abundance.
Rachael Messer is Belle as well as wife to the Scrooge nephew, Fred. The characters are deliberately similar yet Messer separates them adroitly. Her attitude is a lovely reflection of the period in body stance as well as characterization.
The character of Fred is Don Taylor. He also functions as the narrator, an indispensable position. Taylor moves between the roles seamlessly. Taylor is a consummate actor and his performance is the keystone of this production.
And now we come to Ebenezer Scrooge. Initially so tight-fisted he is almost ridiculous he miraculously transitions to a loveable prankster full of joy and generosity. Hallstrom’s performance is wonderful, natural and unexpected as the audience is caught up in the story as if they had never seen or read it before.
Together, and with the help of a great cast, Hallstrom and Taylor have made the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge’s life real as well as realistic. Lemin has kept “A Christmas Carol” in the period yet he has also made the story timeless. All of the performances make the production fresh and hopeful.
This delightful version of “A Christmas Carol” shows through December 8, 2013. The Jewel Box Theatre is located in the First Christian Church at 3700 N. Walker. For additional information and tickets visit www.jewelboxtheatre.org or call 405-521-1786.