Perseverance Theatre has mounted a fine stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," with a gorgeous set, ambitious sound effects and excellent acting from the principal players.
Let's start with the set, a three-story representation of early Victorian London that serves nicely for all interior and street locales. It's a wide-open affair that helps the action clip along without pauses for scene changes. As a result, you get the whole story in just under two hours, with one intermission.
Kevin T. Bennett's Scrooge may be cheap, but he's not a slob, dapper with a residual edge of gentility that make his misanthropic observations all the more credible. His transformed version is, as usual, somewhat giddy and goofy, but also fragile, hoping against hope that the people he has so long treated as things will accept his reformation and be willing to treat him as a person. Director Michael Evan Haney calls the role "the middle-age actor's Hamlet" and Bennett makes a strong case for that point of view.
Direct and affable, James Sullivan is Scrooge's nephew Fred and does double duty as storyteller, introducing characters and presenting parts of the book that Charles Dickens delivered through narrative rather than dialogue.
Most of the cast members actually have multiple roles, which make for effective crowd and party scenes. Tom Robenolt is both a terrifying, officious Marley and a boisterous Ghost of Christmas Present. Ann Reddig makes a commanding Mrs. Fezziwig and conniving housekeeper, the former more successfully projected than the latter. Her real-life husband David Haynes is a lively Mr. Fezziwig.
There are a number of child actors in the play -- including Jonathan Shai Bolkvadze as Tiny Tim -- all of whom deliver their lines audibly and clearly. A musical bonus is supplied by Mischa Shimek and Nate Berry who perform on violin, guitar and hurdy-gurdy as onstage characters.
Lucy Peckham's sound sculpting goes in the right direction. Ghostly voices repeat Scrooge's words when they come back to bite him. The ghosts themselves wear body-mikes and have reverb added to their voices with good effect. However, they are also made a little louder than the stage actors, whose voices sometimes seemed to muffle when they had to deliver lines anywhere except the front of the stage. Fog and lighting complete the spookiness of various scenes.
Costumes are wonderful, except perhaps for the Ghost of Christmas Present's beard, which looked like something from the Halloween section of Value Village; that may be intentional, but I kept looking at the beard rather than listening to the words.
The words, a tweaking of Dickens' text by Haney and Arlitia Jones, kept in all of the famous lines, from "Solitary as an oyster" to "God bless us every one." For the most part they stuck with the classic tale, but added in some noticeably un-Dickensian material. In one scene during the Christmas Past sequence, the younger Scrooge and his new buddy Marley are seen buying out Fezziwig and sending him to debtor's prison. This felt highly unnecessary; Scrooge is not a monster, just another human being with a particular talent that becomes, for him, the only reason for living.
But for the most part Jones and Haney provide smooth dialogue that deserves much of the credit for how quickly and agreeably this version of the story spins out. At the Saturday matinee there were several children, some very small indeed, and yet they watched in a trance and joined in the standing ovation at the end.
That said, think about the age and attention span of your youngsters before bringing them to this or any other show. One parent with a babe in arms had to leave early on.
A Christmas Carol, a production of Perseverance Theatre, will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, 2 p.m. Wednesday (Christmas Eve), 7:30 p.m. Friday, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 28, in the Discovery Theatre. Tickets are available at centertix.net.
Alaska Dispatch Publishing