When Christmastime comes around, there is one standout show that pops up all over town: Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A theatre and audience favorite, this production is re-imagined countless times, with each venue bringing its own unique qualities to the classic. However, with so many choices, which performance should you pick? Director Joseph Wallen adapts this famed story by giving it substantial changes along with Musical Director John Edward Niles, presented by Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre.
Cheerful Christmas music plays while the audience enjoys a delicious buffet-style dinner, while waiters (who are also cast members), bring coffee and tea. It is a friendly atmosphere, particularly when a band of carolers made up of cast members strike up a lively singing contest during intermission, soon making the audience feel more like friends and neighbors rather than strangers.
The set, painted by Jennifer Pelath, shows a picturesque town square full of stone buildings with glowy, frosted windows. Part of the stage revolves to reveal Scrooge’s office and bedchamber, while the remaining walls cleverly fold into each other and show different home interiors, from the rich to the poor. Lighting Designer Jean Forbes helps set the tone, including a fun, rotating light pattern for time travel. Costumes effectively replicate the Victorian era with tailcoats, cloaks, bonnets and top hats.
It’s Christmas Eve, and the town is buzzing with excitement. Carolers sing “Gloria” throughout the street while townspeople exchange gifts and greetings. However, foreboding stomps soon reveal Ebenezer Scrooge (David Schmidt), the town miser whose presence quickly turns the joyful mood sour. Later that evening in his bedchamber, the chained ghost of Scrooge’s old business partner Jacob Marley (Jacob Marley) tells Scrooge to expect a visit from three spirits, whose influence will hopefully inspire him to lead a more giving life and avoid Marley’s dreadful fate.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (Elizer Rios) is the first to arrive. Traditionally, this part is cast as a gentle young woman, but Rios takes the stage as a forceful man in this production, pushing Scrooge along towards his past Christmases, such as a lively party at his old boss Fezziwig’s house, played by a wonderfully jovial Ron Curameng, where singing and dancing abound as a young Scrooge (Giorgio Mazzarelli) timidly stands in the shadows. The shy, but kind, boy grows into a harsh businessman, causing his love, Belle (Heather Harris) to break off their engagement. Jostled by these painful memories, Scrooge grudgingly meets the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by an upbeat Melissa Ward. They look in on the Christmas dinner of Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit (George Rouse), where Scrooge is touched by the giving nature of Tiny Tim (an adorable Jayne Saxon Zirkle). Scrooge also travels to his nephew’s house, where Fred is making merry with his wife and friends.The biggest change to this production, the character of Fred (played by Lazy Susan staple Casey Fero, who is always a joy to watch) has a much more prominent role in this version.
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Future (Samantha Nichols) shows Scrooge the fate that awaits him if his life is left unchanged. While the spirits have a combined impact on Scrooge, it seems that Tiny Tim touches his heart more so than anyone. The image of Tiny Tim atop Scrooge’s shoulders is, to me, a perfect symbol of Christmas.
While there were a few drawbacks at my performance, including piercing audio feedback, some underwhelming performances, and difficulty hearing the actors over the music, the welcoming environment of Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre overcame these barriers, and remains to be one of my favorite venues. It’s not too late for a special Christmas surprise — grab a ticket for your loved one’s stocking before it’s too late!
Running Time: Approximately two hours, with a 15-minute intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 30, 2012, at Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre – 10712 Richmond Highway, in Lorton, VA. Purchase tickets by calling (703) 550-7384.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 30th at Lazy Susan Dinner Theatre–10712 Richmond Hwy, Lorton VA. Purchase tickets by calling (703) 550-7384.