‘Tis the season to be jolly! And jolly is indeed what Colonial Players is offering up for the holiday season with their unique time honored tradition of performing a version of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol. With repeat players, some of whom have been doing their roles for decades, there is some merriment to be found for Christmas upon the stage. Directed by Jill Compton with Musical Direction provided by Roger Compton, this holiday tale is different from many of the others out there this time of year.cist Richard Wade, is a unique approach to Dickens’ classic, highlighting some of the finer aspects of the show that we don’t often get to see. Wade’s most successful number in the piece is a number called “One Fine Funeral” which features the Undertaker’s Man, the Laundress and Charwoman, performed late in the show during the events of Christmas Future. This song, while slightly creepy, is upbeat and oddly reminiscent of “That’s Your Funeral” from Oliver, inviting a twist of dark humor into the otherwise sprightly musical. “Keeping Christmas” is another fine product that Wade creates specifically for this production, allowing Scrooge’s promise of a new life to be vocalized in song.
At my performance, Musical Director Roger Compton failed to deliver the essence of all these wonderful songs because the ensemble had volume problems. There was often a stage full of people during the larger group numbers, like “Hilli-Ho! Chirrup!” and “Mind Your Own Business” and all you could hear was the melody with muddled words being mumbled from meager mouths. The soloists had a similar problem, save for Scrooge and the boy playing Young Scrooge (Clifford Jamieson— who was featured as a lead caroler in the opening number “Christmas Eve In London”). The in-the-round space of Colonial Players Stage is quite intimate and should allow for sound to carry easily, but the ensemble and soloists lost most of these brilliants songs, and we did not get to hear Wade’s creative genius.
Set Designer Dick Whaley does a commendable job of keeping the streets of Victorian London simplistic. The sets aren’t bogged down with unnecessary furniture; even Scrooge’s room with the lattice window is minimalist. This is an approach that works well in this space and allows the actors and the show to carry itself without getting bogged down in the heavy sets and set changes, of which were hardly noticed because of the simplicity of the design.
Costume Designer Julie Bays, on the other hand, is a little all over the place in her efforts to outfit the world of Victorian London. The styles are there, if a little mismatched and inconsistent — like the faded blue muslin cloak with the fur trim verses the bright emerald satin cloak of elegance without. Bays ensures that the women are all in the traditional gowns of the era, while having a bit more trouble with the men. The suits and pants don’t always match and some of the costume pieces appear to be ill-fitted to those wearing them, particularly Bob Cratchit, But the sense of Victorian London is in Bays’s designs, even if you have to hunt for it.
The three that really steal the show away in this production, main mean man excluded, are a trio that are only really featured toward the end of the production. The Undertaker’s Man (Ethan Goldberg), The Laundress (Andrea L. Elward), and the Charwoman (Sarah Wade) comprise that group of vultures picking through the “departed man’s things” during the scenes that take place in the future. Goldberg, Elward, and Wade has a nippy and almost nasty personality about them, which suits the scene well. And when they burst into song, singing “One Fine Funeral” you can hear them crisply and clearly, every word enunciated with perfection, their lively spirits carrying the macabre tune to jaunty heights. The three of them produce beautiful harmony with one another and are a delight to see perform upon the stage.
Scrooge (Duncan Hood) does have some trouble singing, but his acting makes up for it. While his voice is lost and drifts away when he sings during key songs like “Mind Your Own Business” and his solo song “Keeping Christmas” his attitude more than carries his performance. A perfectly crotchety miser, Hood grumbles about in a manner that is rather amusing; allowing the audience to mock him rather than be intimidated by him. This works well as a large portion of the audience is comprised of small children. Hood’s shining moment is his transformation; after Scrooge realizes he will do good and be pleasant and treasure Christmas, Hood simply shoots the moon and goes batty. Like a doddering old man that escaped the funny farm, he starts hopping and skipping and laughing like a cuckoo bird all around the stage, much to the delight of everyone watching. This uniquely maddening twist to Scrooge’s ‘rebirth’ is a delightfully different portrayal of the character and really helps bring the show to a close.
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through December 16, 2012 at Colonial Players – 108 East Street, in Annapolis, MD. A Christmas Carol is currently sold out but to be placed on the waiting and standby list – please call the box office at (410) 268-7373.