Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Wolf Pack Theatre Company

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Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is arguably the definitive Christmas story, beating out such classics as It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, Miracle on 34th Street and The Nutcracker. Wolf Pack Theatre Company founder William Dean Leary, who earlier this month brought the Christmas comedy Uncle Nick, which he directed and wrote, to the stage, has again threaded the needle of stage success to precision—amazing audiences once more. Leary, through his adaptation, directing, and selection of a spectacular cast, has created emotional magic that will leave you deeply touched and thoroughly entertained.

This show is loveable on many levels because of Leary’s grand vision. It turns Ebenezer Scrooge into a three-dimensional protagonist, his heart brimming with repentance as he is shown various stages of his life by the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future, respectively. There’s no performance, no song, no moment that lets the audience off an emotional, soul-searching hook.

In Leary’s adaptation, Bob Cratchit and his family have to move into a homeless shelter because they can’t afford the drugs for Tiny Tim’s life-threatening disease. Years past, we learn, Scrooge broke his father’s heart by refusing to follow in his charity-foundation-running footsteps.

Tim Jansen (Ebenezer Scrooge). Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre

Repeatedly, we see Scrooge have his me-first attitude assailed, particularly in strong scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Present, played with a calm authority by the Reverend David K. North, who also played Scrooge’s father, Andrew. In other scenes with Lauren Giglio‘s the Ghost of Christmas Past, we see Tim Jansen’s Scrooge’s brimming with regret over past, unchangeable events.

Thanks to Giglio‘s music direction, the singing was tissue-eye-dabbing-good throughout. The show began with selected cast, gathered around a faux fire in an oil drum, singing “Sing We Now of Christmas.” From there, “What Child is This?” was lifted to heavenly heights by Vashti Gray Sadjedy’s vocals, in her role as Pastor Charlotte.

The apex of the show’s songs were “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” both by the ensemble. Lauren Patton as Young Belle, beautifully sang “Amazing Grace” and Susan L. Smithers as adult Belle wonderfully sang “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.” North’s ”Oh Holy Night” was beautifully sublime. The ensemble’s “Silent Night/Night of Silence” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” were magnificent.

Sadjedy’s heart-rending prayer for the Cratchits was unforgettable. North gave a commanding performance throughout, especially in his scenes as Scrooge’s father. Smithers, as Scrooge’s beloved Belle, gave a nuanced, compelling performance.

Jamie Brill (Bob Cratchitt) and Wesley Schmidt (Young Tim Cratchitt). Photo courtesy of Wolf Pack Theatre Company.

The fantastic Jamie Brill, who was recently seen in Uncle Nick, headed up the Cratchit family as Bob, and was joined by the wonderful Vanessa Berben, Samantha Roberts, Emilee Schmidt, and Wesley Schmidt as Rachel, Joy, Hope and Tiny Tim respectively. Kevin Buter’s doomed ghost of Jacob Marley was compelling in his scene with Jansen’s Scrooge. Chris Costello and EJ Reynolds had good turns as Young Ebenezer and Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew Edward respectively. Terry Smith Downs, recently seen in Wolf Pack’s Memories & Legends, did a good job as Angel; and Patton gave an emotional performance as Young Belle.

The cast was rounded out by Maria Stephanos (Maria); Caitlin Cavanagh (Holly); Fela Asa Osimokun (Brian); Terry Downs’ children Kaitlynn Downs (Ensemble), Kelly Downs (Ensemble), and William Downs (Tony); Caitlin Ann Chamberlain (Keyboardist, Dual Cast, Holly); Mya Williams (Ensemble), Ruby Prickett (Ensemble), and Elijah Sadjedy (Ensemble, and the son of Vashti Gray Sadjedy).

I loved the on-screen projected images, which expertly matched what was going on on stage. Technical Director Stephen Beitzell and his support, Dannielle Beitzell were on point as usual. You should not only take you and yours to the see the show, but remember one of its core themes this Christmas Season, “Let charity, hope and compassion be your guide.”

Note: This production of A Christmas Carol was produced in part by the charity Community Crisis Services Inc. You can contribute to CCSI by clicking here.

Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays through December 18, 2016, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company performing at Joe’s Movement Emporium 3309 Bunker Hill Road, in Mount Rainer, MD. For ticket information and reservations, call (240) 271-5471, email dean912@live.com, or contact them online.

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