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Review: ‘A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas’ at Olney Theatre Center

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is undeniably one of the most popular works of fiction the author ever wrote. Completed in just a few short months in 1843, the work has been adapted for a variety of mediums, but none is so eloquently presented as the way Dicken’s intended it to be — told as “a Ghost Story of Christmas” by one narrator, in this case, the inestimable actor and adaptor, Paul Morella at the Olney Theatre Center.

First performed at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn in 2009, Mr. Morella has since moved his one-man adaptation to the Olney Theatre Center where it has been presented as part of their annual holiday tradition for the past several years. It is a perfect fit for family and theatre-goers of all ages, and I highly recommend the production.

Set in the intimate Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab, Morella greets each patron warmly and assists them with locating their seats. It is a personalized invitation into an atmosphere of light and haze, time and memory, as the Victorian-themed set is lusciously bedecked with books, manuscripts, papers, clocks and timepieces. A masterful storyteller, Morella launches into the classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge quoting directly from Dickens’ work. Indeed, in a pre-curtain speech, the actor and lead adapter of the one-man play is keen to state his faithfulness to the work, and promises we will hear the tale as Dicken’s intended it to be received – a tale told by the hearth on a cold winter’s eve. Morella does not disappoint.

A gifted orator, Morella acts as narrator as well as all of the characters found in this beloved tale of grace and redemption. His physicality, mannerisms, and voice-work are exemplary as he captures the imaginations of his audience making an old tale new again. I sat spellbound as Morella, in the guise of Scrooge, engaged with each of the Christmas Spirits. Likewise, I reveled in the old miser’s transformation as he chortled and tumbled about the floor finding himself alive on Christmas Day.

Laughter and tears freely flowed, and hope was restored. I left the theatre much better for having experienced Dickens’ story in such a unique and personable manner.

This review would not be complete without extolling praise upon the superb lighting and sound-scape provided by Lighting Designer Sonya Dowhaluk and sound designer Edward Moser, beautifully executed by stage manager Elizabeth Ribar.  Their combined craft along with Morella’s oration makes for a powerful theatrical experience.

Don’t miss this holiday tradition and Paul Morella’s tour de force performance! It’s the perfect holiday gift!

Running Time: Approximately two hours, with one intermission.

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A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas plays through December 31, 2016 at the Olney Theatre Center in the Mulitz-Gudelsky Theatre Lab – 2001 Olney Sandy-Spring Road, in Olney, MD. For tickets, Tickets call the box office at (301) 924-3400, or purchase them online.

RATING: FIVE-STARS-82x1555.gif

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