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‘A Christmas Carol’ at The Little Theatre of Alexandria by Julia L. Exline

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The Little Theatre of Alexandria presents A Christmas Carol, the beloved holiday classic by Charles Dickens about a miserly old man who is visited by three cautionary spirits on Christmas Eve. Rachel Hubbard does a fine job directing a large cast, and together they successfully bring the spirit of the Christmas to the stage this holiday season!

Robert Heinly (Marley) and Elliott Bales (Scrooge). Photo by Doug Olmsted.

Set Designer and Constructor Chris Feldmann use a large room for several different settings, differentiated through the use of props that are wheeled on and offstage. Writing tables with feather quills perched atop them sit on either side of a small coal furnace for Scrooge’s office, and are then switched out for a bed and velvet drapery to create his bedroom. Set Painting by Deidre Nicholson-Lamb depicts the city of London in the background. A large, glowy clock dotted with roman numerals hangs in a high corner, and a polished writing desk stands off to the side, where Charles Dickens himself can be seen writing as the action unfolds onstage.

Lighting Designer Nancy Owens uses different tones to shift between Dickens and the other actors, showing a separation of time and space, while piano music and chimes for the spirit are performed live by the Musical Director Linda Wells. My favorite element of this production has to be the remarkable costumes, designed by Jean Schlichting and Kit Sibley. They re-create the Victorian era through flowy gowns, cloaks, shawls and bonnets, using precise detail and vibrant colors. Hairstyles are also exact, from the tight curls framing the women’s faces to the muttonchops lining the men’s chins (hair design by Tiffancy Pache). The visiting ghosts are the icing on the cake, including a man draped in chains and gauze, a woman in a beautiful white gown that lit-up from the inside, and a man in a heavy velvet robe lined with fur and sprigs of holly.

The play begins with Charles Dickens (Mark Lee Adams) struggling to write the first line of his book before finally settling on the famous “Marley was dead, to begin with.” He continues to narrate throughout the show, even interrupting the plot at times to make tweaks and changes. It is a clever way to develop the story, and Adams does a fine job doing so. Ebenezer Scrooge (brilliantly performed by Elliot Bales) laments on his hatred of the Christmas holiday, and rebuffs his friendly nephew, Fred (a charming Erik Harrison at my performance) who is intent on building a relationship with his loathsome uncle. He continues on to shoot down two gentlemen who are collecting money for the needy, and shouts at his put-upon assistant, the ever-suffering Bob Cratchit (a likable Cal Whitehurst). Later that night, Scrooge is bombarded by the ghost of his ex-business partner Jacob Marley (a convincing Robert Heinly), brandishing heavy chains that he earned during his disreputable life. He warns Scrooge that he is heading towards the same disastrous fate, and that three spirits will visit him in the hopes of inspiring him to change its course.

Mark Lee Adams (Charles Dickens), Cillian Farrell (Tiny Tim), and Elliott Bales (Scrooge). Photos by Doug Olmsted.

The first spirit to visit is the Ghost of Christmas Past, played by a breathy Heather Norcross. Dressed in folds of snowy cloth, lights twinkle from beneath her grown and through her woven hair, giving her an angelic effect that you cannot pull your eyes from. She takes Scrooge through his past Christmases, including an entertaining scene of an office party (Lawrence O. Grey Jr. wins over the audience as a playful Mr. Fezziwig) and the heartbreaking rejection of his young love, Belle (Brittany Morgan).

Next comes the Ghost of Christmas Present, also played by Lawrence O. Grey Jr. Scrooge looks in on Bob Cratchit’s meager family dinner, and is touched by the selfless nature of Tiny Tim (an adorable Cillian Farrell). As Scrooge’s cold heart finally begins to warm, he is scared out of his wits by the Ghost of Christmas Future, played perfectly by Alexander Collins. A creepy, silent hooded figure, this spirit shows Scrooge the fate that awaits him if his life is not altered. Is there hope for Scrooge yet? Or will he be doomed to a miserable fate?Even though the plot and ending of this story is widely known and, in my case, there were no surprises, I thoroughly enjoyed the heartwarming and emotional performances from the large cast. Fog effects are used in this production, and are proved to be a bit much, as during my production, they heavily obscured the actors long after their effects were welcome, and engulfed the audience in a hazy fog as well.

LTA’s A Christmas Carol is a great night of entertainment, filled with fine performances and the comforts and joys of the holiday season!

Nikki Amico (Martha Cratchit), Brian Downie (Henry Cratchit), Cal Whitehurst (Bob Cratchit), Ashley Amidon (Mrs. Cratchit), Lindsey Gattuso (Molly Cratchit), Clare Baker (Belinda Cratchit), John Ray (Peter Cratchit), and Elliott Bales (Scrooge). Photo by Doug Olmsted.

Running Time: 75 minutes, without an intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays through December 16, 2012 at The Little Theatre of Alexandria – 600 Wolfe Street, in Alexandria, VA. For tickets, call (703) 683-0496, or order them online.

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