Theatre Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at The Alliance
By Manning Harris
Chris Moses, the Alliance Theatre’s Director of Educational Programs, may have put his finger on the secret weapon of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” now playing through December 24: Mr. Moses said, “The heart of the story, to me, is still radical—this notion that anyone has the capacity to change at anytime.” And if stingy, crotchety old Ebenezer Scrooge is capable of transformation, then there’s hope for everyone.
A few weeks ago a friend of mine asked if I was going to see “the chestnut,” meaning “A Christmas Carol.” Well, I’m happy to report that the chestnut is quite robust, brimming with life and fun and lushness in the David H. Bell adaptation, directed with aplomb by Rosemary Newcott. In fact, I enjoyed this production more than the Alliance’s 2008 version (the last time I attended—heresy, I know, for loyal Alliance fans who wouldn’t dream of missing this show, ever. And why should they? It’s a knockout).
It’s a huge thing, with magnificent sets (D Martyn Bookwalter) and exquisite costumes (Mariann S. Verheyen) and a gigantic cast; in fact, the budget for this show is probably more than most Atlanta theatres’ yearly expenditures. But when Atlanta’s Tony-winning “national theatre with a local address” pulls out all the stops, well, they’re unstoppable, and it’s a pleasure to cheer them on—which is what I’m doing.
Since you know the story (money counting Scrooge—once again the redoubtable Chris Kayser– miserly and miserable and determined to squash as many cheerful souls as possible, before his spectral visitations), let’s proceed to the cast; it’s first-rate. Bob Cratchit is played by Neal A. Ghant; Jacob Marley, David de Vries (so powerful in last seasons’s “Carapace”); Mrs. Fezziwig, Je Nie Fleming; Mr. Fezziwig, Bart Hansard; Fred, Daniel Thomas May (always a major presence); Young Scrooge, Corey Bradberry; Belle, Jill Ginsberg; Mrs. Cratchit, Cynthia D. Barker; Peter Cratchit, Bernard D. Jones; Belle, Jill Ginsberg; Tiny Tim, Nicholas Sanders. Hats off to everyone; there are no weak links here.
It’s a tribute to Dickens’ genius and the magic of theatre that we are still breathlessly engaged as the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future draw back the curtain and reveal the false values by which Scrooge has lived his life. There are some wonderful special effects: The late Mr. Marley flies! And the Ghost of Christmas Future, dark, dazzling, masked, and taloned—could be Lady Gaga in a portentous mood.
What fun this all is—I would guess that “A Christmas Carol” is the Alliance’s biggest cash cow of the year. Scrooge would be so pleased! With the exception of a slight slowing of the pace at times in Act II, I would call this show a perfectly gorgeous holiday entertainment. I also think it will start to sell out (if it hasn’t already); so what are you waiting for?
For tickets and information, visit www.alliancetheatre.org.