A Spirited Production
A Christmas Carol
Mini-review by Sean McQuaid
Homburg Theatre, Confederation Centre of the Arts
Charles Dickens’ evergreen 1843 novella A Christmas Carol has been adapted endlessly in various media, including this stage musical penned by revered Charlottetown Festival founder Mavor Moore for Vancouver’s Carousel Theatre in 1988.
Mean, miserly businessman Ebenezer Scrooge (Wade Lynch) despises mankind in general and Christmas in particular until the ghost of his dead partner Jacob Marley (Justin Simard) gives him an overdue crash course in human decency, aided by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future (played by Renae Perry, Bruce Cummins and Connor Sharpe, respectively).
Lynch portrays the darker aspects of Scrooge’s character capably enough but shines whenever he finds the humour in the role, sometimes in unexpected places; lines that might read less than hilarious on paper become side-splittingly comical courtesy of Lynch’s expert delivery.
Simard is great undead fun as Marley, but the whiplash-inducing tonal shifts of Perry’s Past ghost feel like two entirely different characters stapled together, while Cummins’ Present ghost is a more coherent but also more pedestrian take on that particular spirit, not especially distinctive.
Other notables include a winningly sympathetic Stephen MacDougall as Scrooge’s long-suffering employee Cratchit, a charming Cameron Cassidy as Scrooge’s lost love Belle, and adroit comedic duo Olivia Barnes & Ellen Carol as cynical servants Dilber & Dobbs.
Limitations of time and space mean I literally can’t say enough good things about Charles Dickens’ original story – wise, funny, spooky, clever, inventive and imbued with a timeless sense of social conscience that makes this classic as invaluably instructive as it is entertaining – and Moore’s adaptation preserves most of the tale’s essentials. The original songs are pleasant albeit seldom memorable, and generally well-executed by director Liz Gilroy and her cast.
For every sequence that soars (like Simard’s bravura fireplace entrance), there are others that land with a thud (like the almost comically anticlimactic revelation of Ignorance and Want huddled beneath Cummins’ robe) or fall tantalizingly short of full success (the Ghost of Christmas Future’s gliding, mist-shrouded entrance works wonderfully until the fog lifts just enough to reveal the wheeled dolly beneath his feet). It all adds up to a spirited and appealing but ultimately uneven take on the Dickens classic.
Ye olde reviewer’s songbird sister Monica Rafuse appears here as Mrs. Fezziwig (and quite effectively at that), so this review is obviously haunted by The Ghost of Christmas Conflict. Factor that into your reading accordingly.