Charles Dickens’ immortal classic, A Christmas Carol, was first published in 1843. Now, in 2015, the Wolf Pack Theatre Company, in association with Community Crisis Services and St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, presents a unique and moving musical theatre adaptation of this iconic novel.
Set in modern times in a combination church and homeless shelter, this version of A Christmas Carol was adapted by William Leary, who also directs the play. The poverty and indifference to human suffering that typified London in the mid-19th century is skillfully paralleled in this present-day drama.
The story begins on Christmas Eve with a group of homeless individuals and families warming their hands over a fire in a trash bin outside the church shelter. They discuss the concerns of the day including unemployment and the greed of the business community. Pastor Charlotte (Vashti Gray Sadjedy) appears and invites them inside. She describes some of the services that the church provides for the homeless and working poor, including the Warm Nights Hypothermia Shelter Program and The Bountiful Blessings Program (which are actual programs that receive support from the proceeds of this show).
The audience is first introduced to the Cratchitt family: Bob (Joshua Boulden), Rachel (Joanna Matthews) and their children, Hope (Emilee Schmidt), Joy (Samantha Roberts), and Tiny Tim (Fela Osimokun). We then learn that they have lost their home and have reluctantly taken up residence in the shelter due to low wages, inadequate public transportation, the high cost of health care, and Tiny Tim’s “preexisting condition.”
Enter the timeless character, Ebenezer Scrooge, played to miserly perfection by Tim Jensen in real time and by Dwayne Allen as Young Ebenezer in flashbacks. These ultra-talented performers infuse their characters with so much realism that we were tempted to boo and hiss the villainous Scrooge, as if we were attending a melodrama on a Mississippi showboat! For some inexplicable reason, Ebenezer comes into the church and encounters the ghost of his deceased former business partner, Jacob Marley (Kevin Buter). Marley explains that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who will help him reevaluate his life. From this point, the story structure hews fairly closely to the original Dickens work, but there are still plenty of creative twists in store.
For example, the Ghost of Christmas Past is Ebenezer’s mother, Martha, portrayed by the talented and versatile Lauren Giglio, who does double duty as the Musical Director. Giglio has a lovely yet powerful operatic voice which tugged at our heartstrings as she sang, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” In like fashion, the Ghost of Christmas Present is Ebenezer’s father, Andrew, superbly played by the amazing David K. North. North displays a pure and strong operatic voice in a thrilling rendition of “O Holy Night”, and, Giglio and North combine their splendid talents in a transcendent duet of “Watchmen Tell us of the Night.”
Another of the many standout musical performances was provided by Fela Osimokun as Tiny Tim. This incredible fourth-grader stunned the audience with his soulful voice and impeccable dynamics as he sang “In the Bleak Midwinter.” Joshua Boulden, as Bob Cratchitt, shines in a solo segment of “The First Noel.” Susan Smithers, as Belle, Scrooge’s former fiancée, performs a dazzling rendition of “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”
The entire company displays rich and beautiful harmonies in rousing production numbers, including “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” as well as a dazzling rendition of “Silent Night”, while Lauren Giglio solos on the beautiful companion piece “Night of Silence.” Many of the musical numbers are performed a cappella, as the talented keyboardist, Caitlin Chamberlain, had to step into the role of Holly, Ebenezer’s niece-in-law.
The “stage” for this production of A Christmas Carol is actually the sanctuary of a church, but the clever cast and crew use the space very effectively. Technical Director Stephen Beitzell skillfully combines sparse and simple set pieces, such as a wooden bench covered by a quilt, with creative lighting choices and remarkable sound effects to create a world that the audience willingly enters. For example, when Jacob Marley raises his voice, a menacing whoosh of red smoke is emitted from “upstage.”
The costumes provided by Doreen Roberts and Dannielle Beitzell are absolutely fabulous, even including a horse’s head for the “Jingle Bells” number! The costumes for the ghosts are, quite literally, glittering. Tiny lights are used underneath their capes to create an appropriately eerie feeling. To add to the effect, the Ghost of Christmas Past wears a sparkling silver cloak and shoes. Although the Ghost of Christmas Future is not a credited role, the costume and the lighting are used to “create” the character.
William Leary and the talented members of the Wolf Pack Theatre Company have taken one of the most well-known holiday stories, brought it into the present time by exploring contemporary social and political issues, and added familiar songs of the season to create a brilliant version of A Christmas Carol that is unlike any of the hundreds of film, television, and stage adaptations you may have seen. We loved this show!
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 19, 2015 at Wolf Pack Theatre Company, performing at St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church — 5820 Riverdale Road, in Riverdale, MD. For tickets, call (240) 271-5471 or purchase them online.
Michael Poandl’s review of A Christmas Carol on DCMetroTheaterArts’ review of A Christmas Carol.
Ticket purchase supports the Warm Nights Hypothermia Shelter Program!
Community Crisis Services, Inc. operates the Prince George’s County Hypothermia Program, Warm Nights Program. Warm Nights operates during the winter months (mid November to March) to provide overnight shelter to individuals needing to escape the cold temperatures. Individuals stay at area churches and are provided meals. Transportation services are provided from various pickup points throughout the county. There are no prerequisites for Warm Nights.
Call 1-888-731-0999 for placement into the Hypothermia Program.
There is a Buy One Get One Free Ticket Offer for this final weekend. Details are here.
Saturday-3 pm matinee and 8 pm performance
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