As festive as a Christmas bowl and classic as the beloved carols it showcases, Lyric Theatre's third annual production of “A Christmas Carol” proves a yuletide tradition worth treasuring.
Actor Christopher Bloch, based in Washington, D.C., makes his Lyric debut with his strong lead turn as Ebenezer Scrooge, the “bah, humbug”-ing miser whose hard heart is finally softened when he is haunted by three spirits on the night before Christmas. Carrying the story with his nuanced performance, Bloch, 58, gives the character a matter-of-fact cantankerousness in the opening scenes, then slowly and steadily shades his characterization with palpable feelings of loss, isolation, regret and, finally, hope and joy.
Also new to the cast, Jennifer Teel brings a joyful charm as The Ghost of Christmas Past, the first of the three spirits sent to redeem Scrooge from his life of selfishness, indifference and greed. Shining like the light of truth with her glistening white costume and wide, hopeful smile, Teel soars high above the stage and audience at Lyric's Plaza Theatre as she reveals scenes from Scrooge's painful past.
Apart from the alternating “Holly” and “Ivy” casts of talented children, most of the remaining players are returning favorites, and their familiarity and obvious affection for the material ensured that this year's opening night performance was entertaining and well-staged.
Tom Huston Orr imbues his portrayal of Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's abused but doggedly sweet-hearted clerk, with a poignant mildness, while Susan Riley flavors her portrayal as his loyal wife with just the right measure of tartness.
Matthew Alvin Brown crackles with genuine warmth as the grump's determinedly chipper nephew, Fred, and brings enough good cheer to his secondary role as Young Scrooge that the main character's future meanness seems even more tragic. Melissa Griffith glows as Young Scrooge's fiancee Belle, a poor but loving maid he eventually drives off with his money-grubbing ways.