I have enjoyed Trinity Rep’s “A Christmas Carol” every year for the past 35 years, including the number of years I reviewed two casts. That’s a lot of “Christmas Carols.”
I can truly say that I never met a “Christmas Carol” or Scrooge that I did not like. Sure, some tend to be a bit more likeable than others, and this year’s production is one of the most likeable.
This year’s cast of children (there are two) is marvelous. As you settle in your seats, they come around and shine your shoes with old rags and thick English accents.
Tom Gleadow sets the tone as the reader who gathers the children to reward them with a Christmas story, cleverly weaving in the patented instructions to shut off cell phones, unwrap candy, etc. Gleadow also plays Mr. Fezziwig and Old Jo and proves once again that he is one of Rhode Island’s top actors.
The production moves smoothly across the stage and into the audience with one exception: the potential demise of Tiny Tim, which awkwardly takes place out of many sight lines.
But that’s a minor criticism lost among so many wonderful surprises, best of which is the entrance and exit of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Mia Ellis, another product of the Trinity/Brown Consortium, makes a wonderful ghost and returns as the sister-in-law in Stave II.
Eugene Lee’s two-tier wooden set has a gigantic clock whose hands spin with the passage of time.
Stephen Thorne makes a magnificent Marley’s Ghost, making a surprise entrance. Director Tyler Dowbrosky has outdone himself in all of the entrances and exits, which continue to be one of the delightful moments of the play.
There’s singing and dancing, snow and mistletoe, and a giant turkey (in contrast to the tiny bird on the Cratchits’ table.
Rachael Warren gives us a fresh approach to Scrooge’s maid, Mrs. Partlet, showing a bold defensiveness before softening to her redeemed boss.
Oh, yes. Can’t forget Scrooge. Timothy Crowe has made the curmudgeonly character unforgettable. You know that certain lines are coming, and you wait for the “Bah Humbugs” and the reaction to the “Yes or No” game. The amazing thing about Crowe is that he always digs deeper and finds ways to make his character better. He, and his performance, keeps getting better with age.
The large cast, including many company members, Consortium students and the locally recruited children, seem to be enjoying themselves in the lively, uplifting production.
“A Christmas Carol” is at Trinity Repertory Company through Dec. 31. Tickets are scarce, so take anything you can get, including the “cheap seats” on the top row. Call 351-4242 for reservations.