Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

December 2, 2012

A Christmas Carol

Hartford Stage, Hartford, CT
through December 29, 2012
by Jarice Hanson

From the opening scene featuring dancing and flying ghosts, the audience knows that this version of "A Christmas Carol" is going to be different. The 15th anniversary production of Charles Dickens’ classic story, directed by Maxwell Williams, marks the holiday season in a spirited way (pardon the pun). Originally adapted and directed by Michael Wilson, this production is a masterpiece of family fun that Dickens himself would appreciate.

Bill Raymond is irascible, endearing, and a master of comic timing as Scrooge. His portrayal of the iconic curmudgeon reflects an ability to integrate classic and children’s theatre to entertain audiences of all ages. The venerable Noble Shropshire, in a dual role as Mrs. Dilber and Jacob Marley’s ghost, provides a brilliant catalyst for Scrooge’s epiphanies. The professionals gently guide the children in the cast to realize their own characters, and the result is a caring stage family that resonates with everyone. When Tiny Tim says “God Bless Us Everyone” audible sniffles of sympathy from the audience were heard.

While the story is true to the original text, special mentions are deserved for choreographer Hope Clarke, scenic designer Tony Straiges, costume designer Zack Brown, and lighting designer Robert Wierzel for their contributions. The Spirit of Christmas Past (Johanna Morrison), the Spirit of Christmas Present (Alan Rust) and the Spirit of Christmas Future (whom, according to the playbill, was played by “Himself”) are memorable portrayals.

For those who know youngsters who have never seen a live performance before, this production is a wonderful way to introduce them to the magic of theatre. When the performance was over, one bright eyes young girl was asked what she liked best about the production. Her reply was, “All of it.” She might not become a theatre critic in the future, but it's pretty sure she’ll want to go to the theatre again.