Annapolis Shakespeare Company ushers in holiday spirit with ‘A Christmas Carol’

Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of A Christmas Carol is a moving, faithful stage version of Charles Dickens’ classic tale. Adapted by Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken, and directed by Sally Boyett, this show, now an annual tradition, is a lovely way to kick off the holiday season.

Dexter Hamlett as Ebenezer Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol' at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
Dexter Hamlett as Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Dexter Hamlett brings great emotional range to Ebenezer Scrooge. His voice is full of rage and bitterness at the start, railing against his nephew Fred (Benjamin Russell) and clerk Bob (Rob Condas). On his way home, he shoves his way through the holiday crowd, hunched over. With the spirits he reveals his vulnerability, looking on the scenes shown him with pain, and begging the Ghost of Christmas Past (Kristin Bellamarie) to stop showing them. With the final Ghost (Stephen Kime), he ends up on his knees, asking to be able to change. His transformation at the end is remarkable, laughing, leaping about the stage in joy.

Benjamin Russell plays Fred with great joy, refusing to let his uncle bring his spirits down. He brings a love of life to the role, which is infectious at his party. Watching him welcome Scrooge at the end is incredibly touching.

Rob Condas brings a quiet nobility to Bob Cratchit, tactfully standing up to Scrooge’s tyranny. He is full of emotion in the scene set in the future, his voice briefly catching before talking to his family. His reaction at the end to Scrooge’s behavior is hilarious, done completely without words. Miles Schulman plays Tiny Tim with great innocence and love. Grace Gentile gives Bob’s wife great passion, telling her family what she thinks of Scrooge after Bob proposes a toast to him.

Stephen Kime plays young Scrooge full of bitterness. Jen Ayer-Drake plays his beloved Belle with great passion. The scene between them, when she gives him up, is incredibly powerful. Even though they sit together, the distance separating them is easy to see. Anya Maier plays his sister Fan with a powerful love. Kime is a frightening Ghost of Christmas Future, completely silent.

John Pruessner gives Jacob Marley with great despair, walking across the stage and wailing. His speech “Mankind was my business!” is his most powerful performance, full of regret over a life spent on the wrong things. As the Ghost of Christmas Present, he is full of energy, throwing back Scrooge’s own words at him and staunchly defending the spirits’ methods.

John Pruessner as Jacob Marley in 'A Christmas Carol' at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
John Pruessner as Jacob Marley in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Kristin Bellamarie plays the Ghost of Christmas Past with a quiet strength. She begins Scrooge’s journey of transformation, allowing him to get insight into himself by asking questions about what she’s shown him.

Pilot Earle-Smith plays Peter Cratchit with great kindness. As the Turkey Boy who gets the giant turkey for Scrooge, he is full of Cockney suspicion. He and Scrooge comically circle around each other. Justino Brokaw gives a lightness as Mr. Fezziwig, dancing beautifully and enjoying life.

Scenic Designer Salydon Boyken has created a set that evokes 19th-century London. Underneath the backdrop is a silhouette of the city skyline, while on top are a set of flickering gas lamps. To the left is a spiral staircase, leading to an archway, while a staircase with two landings is on the far right. The backdrop is a screen on which Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow throws various paintings throughout the show, such as pictures of Scrooge’s office and city streets. Crates serve as benches and desks, while a small table and chairs are brought out for the Cratchit’s home.

Sally Boyett is also the Costume Designer, and with Wig/Make-up Designer Lucy Wakeland, has outfits appropriate to the era. Scrooge looks severe in a black suit, later changing to a white nightshirt, stocking cap, and silk dressing gown. Fred is dapper in a blue coat and khaki pants, while Bob is struggling middle-class in a white shirt, black vest, and pants. Jacob Marley looks ghostly in a black suit, a white bandage wrapped around his head, and dragging behind him a heavy weight attached to his chest by chains. The Ghost of Christmas Past has on a white, flowing gown with a white sash and gold laurels, while the Ghost of Christmas Present looks like a Roman god in a green fur robe and green laurels, carrying a golden scepter, and the Ghost of Christmas Future looks terrifying in a long, black cloak completely covering him, walking with a huge stick.

Sally Boyett serves as Sound Designer as well, and with Audio Consultant Folger Ridout throws out sounds that help set the tone, such as bells tolling for the time. For Jacob Marley’s visit, supernatural sounds play in the background, rising in dramatic moments. Unearthly sounds also play during the Ghost of Christmas Future’s first appearance.

Lighting Designer Corey Goulden-Naitove uses lighting effects to help with the atmosphere. During Jacob Marley’s visit, the lights subtly flash, giving him an unearthly glow and adding to the supernatural feeling. The lights switch from the main stage to the staircases during the Ghosts’ and Scrooge’s conversations, highlighting each as the action moves. During two key moments, the lights momentarily shut off.

Voice/Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the actors’ accents sound authentic and intelligible to the audience. Sally Boyett does a wonderful job as Director. The show is full of beautiful movements, from the actors dancing to simply moving the crates to change the scene. The silent tableaus narrated by the Ghost of Christmas Present are gorgeous to watch, and the Ensemble’s narration at the beginning and end is cleverly done. If you’ve never seen this show before, you’re in for a treat, and if you have, there are enough changes that it’s well worth seeing again. It’s sure to get you in the holiday spirit.

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

A Christmas Carol plays through December 29, 2019, 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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