Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company

Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of A Christmas Carol is a fun, faithful translation of Charles Dickens’ famous holiday classic. Adapted by Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken, and directed by Donald Hicken, it is a perfect show for the holiday season.

Brian Keith MacDonald dominates the stage as Scrooge, capturing perfectly the miser’s remarkable range of emotions. He begins the play with visible anger, leaping up from his desk in rage to protest Christmas cheer and charity, and rudely shoving past people while walking home. His fear at encountering the various spirits is palpable. He becomes wistful on seeing scenes from his past, and he attempts to join in at the fun during the present celebrations. The future scenes find him falling to his knees, begging for another chance. By the end, he dances across the stage in joy, the change wonderful to watch.

Brian Keith MacDonald. Photograph by Joshua McKerrow.

The other actors play multiple roles, with William Dennison playing Bob Cratchit with a quiet strength. He quietly but firmly holds his ground when asking for Christmas day off. He radiates optimism and peace, his voice raising in pride as he tells his family of Tiny Tim’s (Joseph D’Angelo) kind words. Only once does he quiver, when relating his son’s precarious health. His reaction to Scrooge’s newfound kindness is restrained yet hilarious.

Laura Rocklyn plays Mrs. Cratchit with a warm kindness, joyfully serving dinner to her family. Her husband’s toast to Scrooge brings out her one harsh word, quickly softened. Joseph D’Angelo gives Tiny Tim innocence and kindness, even as he shuffles with his crutch. The Cratchit family is filled with light and warmth, a strong contrast to Scrooge’s cold, empty home.

Olivia Ercolano gives Belle, Scrooge’s childhood love, a strong heart. Arguing with the Young Scrooge (Jack Russ), she gives a powerfully moving reaction to his greed, her voice heavy with sadness as she makes an impossible decision. Russ plays Scrooge full of conflict, pacing the stage, protesting Belle’s choice but unable to prove her wrong.

Dexter Hamlett plays Jacob Marley with a soul-heavy weariness. He shuffles onstage, his voice slowly rising in passion as he tells of his otherworldly burdens. His famous speech “Mankind was my business!” is filled with regret.

Bethany Mayo gives a quiet firmness to the Ghost of Christmas Past, guiding Scrooge through painful memories. Airy and light, she seems to glide across the stage.

Craig Allen gives a kind firmness to the Ghost of Christmas Present, allowing Scrooge to see what he has missed all these years. The most colorful of the spirits, he gently mocks Scrooge’s cruelty only once.

Jack Russ plays the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come with a fearful menace. Unnaturally tall and completely speechless, he creaks across the stage, pointing towards Scrooge’s future. He terrifies without saying a word.

Dexter Hamlett. Photograph by Joshua McKerrow.

Sandra Spence has done a great job as Costume Designer, with outfits that evoke the Victorian period. Scrooge begins and ends the play wearing a black jacket and pants with a gray vest, while for the rest he wears a white nightshirt, gold and black striped dressing gown, and a white sleeping cap. Bob Cratchit is dressed simpler but still nicely in a brown jacket and white shirt, and Tiny Tim in a long brown jacket and cap. The spirits are all dressed in attire with the feel of the supernatural around them, with the Ghost of Christmas Past in a white gown and silver laurels, the Ghost of Christmas Present wearing a long green cloak and a golden staff, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in a black shroud-like gown that hides most his face. Jacob Marley is all in black, with heavy chains wrapped around him, dragging a weight.

Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken do wonderful work as Scenic Designers. The set evokes London during the period, with a cobblestone street on the floor and gray brick walls on either side, and gas streetlights facing the center. On the left is a spiral staircase leading up to a small alcove, while the right has a doorway. Several crates are used as desks and chairs, while a table and chairs come up for the Cratchit’s dining area.

Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow uses the backdrop to throw various images onstage, primarily paintings by period artists such as John Grimshaw and James McNeill Whistler. These paintings help flesh out the stage to show Scrooge’s office and bedroom for instance, as well as street scenes. The screen is also used for a neat trick with the door knocker, and setting the scene for one of the Ghosts.

Adam Mendelson as Lighting Designer does a wonderful job. At the beginning, the lights give the effect of fog lightly covering the stage. The lights darken for the Ghosts’ visitations, enhancing the feel of the supernatural. They also change depending on the mood.

Bethany Mayo, Bill Dennison Joey D’Angelo, Brian Keith MacDonald. Photograph by Joshua McKerrow.

Nancy Krebs is great as Voice and Dialect Coach, making sure the actors have the right accent for their class. Scrooge sounds distinctly polished and upper-class, while the Cratchits speak slightly less so. The Charwoman and Old Joe have the immediately recognizable Cockney accent.

Sally Boyett does a great job as Choreographer and Sound Designer. The several dance sequences are gorgeous to watch, with all the actors dancing fluidly with each other, some giving solo performances. The sound works perfectly to help enhance the changing atmosphere, particularly adding a layer of creepiness to the final Ghost’s appearance.

Donald Hicken is a terrific Director. The actors navigate the stage and each other with ease, and handle the multiple roles perfectly, changing outfits and characters quickly. The acting, directing, choreography, lighting, and sets all come together for a joyful, family-friendly performance. You won’t be saying “Bah, humbug!” to this show!

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours, with a 15-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays through December 31, 2017 at Annapolis Shakespeare Company – 1804 West Street in Annapolis, MD. For tickets, call the box office at 410-415-3513 or purchase them online.


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