Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of A Christmas Carol brings Charles Dickens’ classic holiday story to full life. Adapted by Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken, and directed by Donald Hicken, it is a moving way to get into the holiday spirit.
Dexter Hamlett gives Scrooge an extraordinary emotional range. He begins the play full of biting sarcasm and anger, hurtling through celebrating couples and spurning charitable requests. He has moments of reflection on seeing his life with the Ghost of Christmas Past (Mackenzie Koehne) and loses himself in the party with the Ghost of Christmas Present (John Pruessner). He is filled with anguish with the Ghost of Christmas Future (Jack Venton), dropping to the ground in sincerity. At the end of the play, he is laughing joyously and feeling playful, trying to look angry as Bob Cratchit (Neil Devlin) sneaks into work after the holidays.
Neil Devlin plays Bob Cratchit with a quiet resolve. He wishes Fred (Jake Daley) a merry Christmas even as Hamlett throws him out of the office. He humbly yet firmly insists on taking off for the holidays. Even after a heartbreaking loss, he tries to stay optimistic for his family, his voice choking only once. He stays in shocked silence at Scrooge’s change, as his boss puts on Cratchit’s scarf and jacket and leads him out.
Jake Daley gives a cheerfulness to Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, wishing his uncle a merry Christmas despite the hostile response. At his party, he explains how he pities his uncle: “Who does he hurt,” by not coming to the party, “but himself?” The ending finds him overjoyed at a surprise appearance.
John Pruessner plays Jacob Marley with great despair, wailing at his need to walk the earth in his afterlife and at Scrooge’s disbelief. His speech “Mankind was my business” is powerfully heartfelt. As Mr. Fezziwig he is filled with cheerfulness, celebrating and dancing. He is passionate as the Ghost of Christmas Present, calling out those who invoke his fellow spirits for “prideful, hateful” ends and throwing back Scrooge’s own words.
Mackenzie Koehne plays the Ghost of Christmas Past with great strength. She firmly takes Scrooge along on the visit to his past, asking him probing questions and making him sit in his grief. As Fred’s wife Caroline, she is loving yet firmly against Scrooge.
Jack Venton is frightening as the Ghost of Christmas Future, silently hovering with Scrooge and raising his arm menacingly. As a young Scrooge, he is cold and distant, even with his fiancée Belle (Kira Bennett).
Madeline Sparkes gives a passion to Mrs. Cratchit, speaking her mind against Scrooge when her husband proposes a toast to him. Audrey Ella Garland gives a playfulness to Martha Cratchit, surprising her father when he comes home. Andy Edelman gives a seriousness to Peter Cratchit. As the Turkey Boy at the end, he is full of youthful enthusiasm and cleverness.
Colin Kemmerer plays Tiny Tim with an innocence, joyfully asking to “God bless everyone.” He is haunting as the spirit Ignorance. Miranda Kvedys gives a youthful cheer to the young Fan, glad that Scrooge can come home. She looks desolate at the spirit Want.
Kira Bennett plays the young Scrooge’s fiancée Belle with powerful intellect and understanding, realizing that they have grown apart. Her speech ending their engagement is quietly heartbreaking. Nancy Krebs plays the Charwoman with Cockney craft and comedy, interrupting Pruessner as she shows her items for sale.
Excepting Hamlett, all the actors, joined by Adam Levine and Neal Bechman, serve as the Ensemble, playing party guests and crowds. They also creatively pass along the narration at the play’s beginning and end.
Costume Designer Sally Boyett, with Wig Designer Tommy Malek, creates outfits that evoke 19th-century England while distinguishing each character. Scrooge wears a black suit and dressing gown. Marley looks ghostly with a bandage wrapped around his head and carrying a heavy weight attached to him by chains around his chest. The Ghost of Christmas Past looks ethereal in a white lace gown, while the Ghost of Christmas Present is festive in a green robe. The Ghost of Christmas Future looks terrifying covered in a long, dark cloak and carrying a wooden staff.
Lighting Designer Adam Mendelson enhances the supernatural feeling with different lighting. An eerie green light bathes the stage for Marley. During a climactic moment, the spotlight shines on Scrooge. Sound Designer Sally Boyett adds to the atmosphere by throwing out spooky sounds. Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the British accents, from upper-class to Cockney, sound authentic while remaining understandable.
Choreographer Sally Boyett creates lovely dances and movements throughout the play. Donald Hicken does a wonderful job as director. The actors perfectly capture every emotional and comic moment. A Christmas Carol is a pleasure to watch and a powerful reminder of the holiday’s true meaning.
Running Time: Approximately two hours, including a 15-minute intermission.
SEE ALSO: Colorful ‘White Christmas’ charms at Classic Theatre of Maryland (review by Charles Green, November 28, 2023)