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Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Hedgerow Theatre

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A Christmas Carol, written as a novella by Charles Dickens in 1843, has been widely adapted in many forms for television, radio, the big screen, opera and theater. It remains a powerful parable that resonates through time, of a man whose heart has shriveled to almost nothing and must receive a severe shock in order to open it enough to receive and reciprocate love, and to propagate kindness.

The shocks are delivered by four special specters who show him what may come of his present ways. As Mr. Scrooge is magically escorted through his past, present and possible future, visiting his former self, people who have touched him, and people he should have been more in touch with, including himself, he learns who he must become in order to truly live. Hedgerow Theatre brings the story Ebenezer Scrooge (Zoran Kovcic), adapted and directed by Jared Reed, to life against the fitting backdrop of an 1846 grist mill, with a charismatic cast, charming carols (provided by Music Director Shaun Yates and the cast), and vivacious narration that kindles the imagination, and fires up the spirit of the season.

 Zoran Kovcic as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Hedgerow Theatre.

Zoran Kovcic as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo courtesy of Hedgerow Theatre.

Zoran Kovcic brings forth a believable and adorable Scrooge, one of the best ever.  The changes in his demeanor as his character grows from initially inflicting pain, then having to endure it, to ultimately wishing to relieve it in others, reflects the talents of an immensely well versed artist.

Shaun Yates portrays a playful Bob Cratchit, a fun Fezziwig and Topper, Josh Portera is super as Marley, and also as Present and Old Joe, and Mark Swift gives extraordinary ebullience to Fred, somberness to Young Scrooge, and makes a hilariously sassy Mrs. Dilber. Susan Wefel is absolute exuberance as Mrs. Fezziwig, and outstanding as Fred’s Party Guest and the Solicitor.

Stacy Skinner puts as much feeling into narration as she does her darling characters Mrs. Cratchit and Caroline and others. Allison Bloechl excels as Belle and the Charwoman, and renders a lovely, vibrant Mrs. Fred. Other roles are played on a rotating basis by a team of actors, many of them from the community.

A well-utilized, sparse set by designers Zoran Kovcic and Shaun Yates, allows for speedy scene changes, and is augmented by sensational sound and lighting, both designed by Jared Reed, to wonderful effect, particularly in the terrifically staged scene in which the ghost of Marley appears, bearing the chilling chain he forged in life.

Elizabeth Hanson’s rich, traditional costumes bring it all home for the holiday.  After all, it is that time of year, so in the words of Penelope Reed, Hedgerow’s Executive Director, “Put your modernity aside for a little while…” and see the most beloved Christmas story of all time in this festive production.

Running Time: 90 minutes, with one 15-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays through December 24, 2016, at Hedgerow Theatre – 64 Rose Valley Road, in Rose Valley, PA. For tickets, call (610) 565-4211, purchase them at the door, or online.

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