BIG HIT: “A Christmas Carol” at Temple
BY JOHN CHAPPELL — Staff Writer
It would hardly be possible to say how much I like Temple Theatre’s treatment of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol.”
My review two years ago was a rave, and that still stands, but more so. This show is a lead pipe cinch, a socceroo, a sockdolager, a hit, a hard hit, a knockout. I hate to be so mild in my praise, but for once my word sack is about empty.
Here’s why I like it so much. Temple has done in fact what so many companies only aspire to do: actually come up with something original and good. Sure, it’s adapted from another source. So was Oedipus. But in its adaptation, Temple has managed to be remarkably and wonderfully faithful to the original while translating it into the stage language of musical theater.
Melding new songs with well-loved carols, blending experienced performers, a professional actor (playing Scrooge) and community players including beginners into such a smooth and tasty Yuletide Nog twarn’t easy — but, as in all wonderful shows — Temple made it look easy.
This is the same show that premiered in 2009 and returned in 2010. It’s back this season, only better. Last year’s Scrooge, Tennessee’s Terry Schwab, returns. He’s played character parts all over the country, including another Scrooge in another place. Out in Wyoming Schwab played the role in a musical version Leslie Bricusse adapted for the stage in 1992 from Albert Finney’s 1970 movie “Scrooge!”
Well, “A Christmas Carol” is one often adapted (and sometimes even maladapted) classic. The first film version came out in 1901, and it was based on a stage adaptation. As Scrooge, nearly everybody has gotten into that act sometime or other, it seems — even Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, Mr. Magoo and (of course) Scrooge McDuck.
I like lots of them, and maybe my fondness comes from having played Dickens myself, recreating the writer as he – alone on stage –performed his famed ghost story of Christmas behind his crimson-velveted reading stand, acting out all the parts himself.
For whatever reason, Temple’s Carol ever pleases me, joys me, thrills me, amuses me, never tires me, and wonderfully moves me. Going up to Sanford to see it is now a family tradition for us, and I hope it will become one for many of you.
Every time I see it there is something new worth appreciating. This year I loved the way new lighting painted the main drape to a rich, rich red above a holly-draped apron edge before it rose on the first act. I loved the way a solitary Jacob Marley tombstone on a side stage before the show began silently echoed Dickens’ famous opening sentence: “Marley was dead, to begin with.”
I liked the way sound effects helped make the dead partner’s ghost truly scary, truly – well – ghostly. I like the way this version manages its musical lightheartedness without omitting the tough cautions of the tale.
Sure, some cast members still learning the stagecraft of voice management slip into falsetto screechiness. Sometimes old Scrooge seems too early caught up in Christmas cheer – too happily joining the reeling dance during Old Fezziwig’s party – a bit early in the tale. A trio cheerfully dealing off the late Scrooge’s best shirts and bedclothes jollied away too long, maybe. One could find a cast note or two to pass to the stage manager if one were looking – but not many.
I wasn’t doing much of that kind of looking. I was having way too good a time. We all were. My wife went back again, took two more grandkids and liked the show herself even more that time than before.
If you can still cadge a ticket, go. Go again, if it’s not sold out. Take your kids. If you don’t have kids, borrow some.
“A Christmas Carol” at The Temple Theatre still plays through this week. If you should miss out, be sure to mark this sugarplum down on next year’s calendar and go then.
What a show! What a cast!
God bless ’em, every one.
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