Dickens Classic Retains Its Heartwarming Charm
Reviewed by Tom Jones
December 4, 2017
What? Back again? Is it possible that the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge continues to find enthusiastic response whenever he growls “Bah Humbug” year after year at Christmastime? He is not someone looking for friends, and is cranky and “crochety” year after year. Yet, he succeeds in fascinating thousands of readers and theatregoers worldwide. He is back on stage at Denver Center for the Performing Arts this season, and continues to be an ill-tempered charmer.
Sam Gregory plays the unhappy character this year at DCPA. He is an impressive entertainer. Memories of past Scrooges have left me with trepidation about enduring his wrath again and again. Gregory’s interpretation is a pleasant change. Yes, he is still scary and mean, but his portrayal of the role, as directed by Melissa Rain Anderson, has given him more humanity, and more earnest desire to make personal changes than seen in many past productions. This is Gregory’s second year as Scrooge on the Denver stage.
Charles Dickens was down on his luck in London in 1843. He needed a financial success to follow “The Pickwick Papers” and “Oliver Twist.” He began to work on a novella that would become “A Christmas Carol,” writing it in just six weeks. The published work appeared a week before Christmas in 1843, and the first edition was sold out immediately. The story was a tremendous success, 13 more editions were printed within the next year.
Dickens went on to further renown with many of his works becoming classic literature, including “David Copperfield” and “A Tale of Two Cities.” His themes touched on the social problems of England, and the ongoing need for kindness and hope. A movie “The Man Who Invented Christmas” is currently playing in movie theatres in Colorado, looking at Dicken’s life at the time he wrote the “Carol” novella.
This is DCPA’s 25th season of “A Christmas Carol.” It has proved to be a landmark show – a must-see every year. The Center continues its success in presenting the story in a beautiful setting, with skilled performers. The well-known set is as glorious as ever. The large cast is without flaw, and the Dicken’s tale has become even more relevant through the years.
One of this year’s highlights is the convincing portrayal of Brian Vaughn as Bob Cratchit. In the second act, Cratchit reminds his family of the importance of Christmas. (See quotes following review.) Vaughn’s performance is inspiring. In fact, the entire production is inspiring. The audience left the theater with a desire to be more helpful to family, friends, and those in need.
The script for this year’s production is by Richard Hellesen, with music by David de Berry, interspersed with familiar Christmas melodies. Christine Rowan provides excellent choreography.
The story is the same as ever – the wealthy Ebenezer Scrooge has only one employee, a kindly Bob Cratchit who is poorly paid. It is Christmas Eve. Scrooge grumbles that the impoverished London citizens have no right to find joy in the holiday season. He does, however, begrudgingly grant Cratchit permission to leave the office to be with his wife and children, including the crippled Tiny Tim.
Scrooge returns to his apartment, and is roused from restless sleep by the startlingly arrival of his former partner, Jacob Marley. Marley died seven years previously and is now an after-life spirit prisoner shackled by the chains of his past errors. Marley warns Scrooge that he will face the same torment when he dies, unless he changes his ways. He says that he will be visited that night, and in nights to come by three spirits representing the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come.
The ghosts appear, with each apparition providing Scrooge with memories of his past – some joyous, some fearful and sad, and each with a warning that he must do something now to improve his life for the future. This could be scary stuff. Some of it is. But there is always the realization that lives can change, when there is an earnest desire to do so.
This is a beautiful, heart-warming, “feel good” show. The entire production is a jeweled treasure.
“A Christmas Carol”
Where: The Stage Theatre, Denver Center for the Performing Arts
To: December 24, 2017
For Information Online Click Here
Note from Hellesen Script Adaption: In the second act, Bob Cratchit is at home advising his family:
“When I listen to you talk about your hopes, I can’t but think how Christmas changes as we grow older. Time was, when I was young when Christmas Day was like a magic ring around the world. It bound together all enjoyments, affections, hopes…And seeing everything and everyone around a Christmas fire was all I ever wanted.
…” As we grow older, let us be thankful that the circle of our Christmas memories expands. Welcome, our old aspirations, which we may yet think impossible. We have not outlived you yet! And welcome, new projects and new loves, to their place by the hearth. Welcome what has been, and what never was, and what we hope may be—all our bright visions of Christmas Day For it is the season of immortal hope, and the birthday of immoral mercy—and we will shut out nothing.
“Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us.”
Tiny Tim: “God bless us, every one!”