Theatre IVOs musical adaptation of OA Christmas CarolO is a straightforward presentation of a story that has been produced countless times on both stage and screen. But describing this show ¥ adapted and directed by Nancy Cates ¥ as straightforward doesnOt do it justice. The production exudes craftsmanship at every turn.
William Pitts stars as the shilling-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge. So often, Scrooge is portrayed as a decrepit, phlegmatic figure. When faced with eternal damnation, an eleventh-hour conversion is perhaps not too surprising. But this Scrooge is still in the prime of life, and his journey from miser to benefactor is filled with both energy and keen self-awareness.
PittsO energy is most evident when he awakens Christmas morning to discover that itOs not too late for redemption. He delights the children in the audience by deliriously bounding through the final scenes as he upends years of avarice.
Early on, the show hits the perfect balance between humor and fright when Jacob MarleyOs ghost (Gordon Bass) supernaturally rises into ScroogeOs bedchamber. MarleyOs chain-rattling costume is just one example of Thomas W. HammondOs striking designs.
Backed by numerous special effects, Jan Guarino as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Andrew C. Boothby as the Ghost of Christmas Present successfully create otherworldly presences that unsettle both Scrooge and audience alike.
The music consists of Christmas carols and songs by Jule Styne and Bob Merrill. Pitts effectively demonstrates ScroogeOs single- minded devotion to the acquisition of wealth by singing ORingle, RingleO early in Act I. Near the end of the play, the same song conveys a far different meaning when associated with ScroogeOs newfound generosity.
The best musical moment occurs during the vision of Christmas future. After ScroogeOs foretold death, lowlifes haggle over his personal possessions and then burst into gleeful song and dance with OWeOre Despicable.O
Greig LeachOs set consists of beautifully rendered elements that move in and out of the show with precision and speed. During one stretch, the stage is split into two halves. On one side, Bob Cratchet (Richard Koch) and his struggling family are having Christmas dinner. On the other side, ScroogeOs nephew (Steve Perigard) entertains his more affluent friends. This visual composition is interesting to the eye, creates a lot of activity on stage, and pointedly suggests a comparison between the haves and have-nots. ItOs this kind of theatrical refinement that is woven throughout the entire production.
Theatre IVOs OA Christmas CarolO runs through Dec. 23 at the Empire Theater, 114 W. Broad St. Tickets are $15-17 call 344-8040.
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