Clowns for Christmas? Why only in Howard Community College’s Arts Collective’s presentation of A Christmas Carol, written by Dickens and adapted by Doris Baizley. A proverbial circus of entertainment for the whole family to enjoy, this delightful romp through the classic Christmas tale puts a new spin on the true meaning of the holiday season and how the grumpy old miser discovers it. A veritable playground for the actors that tumbles into a rapidly somersaulting merry-go-round of magic, music, movement and light — this production will transport you to a whimsical land where joy and merriment pours from the performers the way the clowns pour from the wardrobe that is affixed center stage. Directed by Jenny Male, this A Christmas Carol is sure to inspire the bright festivities of Christmas straight into your heart.
Set Designer Terry Cobb immediately sets the stage for a fun and fancy free production, painting the epic turn table a bright roulette wheel in red, gold, and blue with swirling designs that match the ornate gold paint of the enormous wardrobe that appears to grow right up from the center of the stage. Immediately you think Narnia — and knowing all the magic that came from that wardrobe — you instantly expect the same from this one. And the audience is not disappointed for as the wardrobe peels open a plethora of painted faces in vivacious costumes pour out onto the stage and the shenanigans begin!
Costume Designers Jessica Welch and Meghan O’Beirne hold the standards of fantasy to new heights with their fairy-esque designs when suiting up the half-dozen clowns that make an appearance during the production. With dazzling colors and tantalizing glitter the clowns immediately strike a resemblance to mythical fae-like creatures of another realm. Welch and O’Beirne make sure everyone has unique face paint, resplendent head pieces and something adorable for their feet.
Director Jenny Male develops a wondrous world inside this production with the clowns, who play the ghosts of Christmas past, Christmas present, some furniture and then some. She’s created their own little culture with their own tittering language, playful relations to one another and a very mischievous yet sprightly good fun manner of interacting with the others. From the childlike innocence and excitement over falling bubbles to their unique style of dancing whirligig jigs all about the stage, the clownish fairies Male has created brings this tale a whole new meaning of Christmas spirit.
The talent rounded up in this cast is a superior gathering of performers who wish to express the true joys and meanings of Christmas to the audience. The ensemble is sincere — posing as a time-worn acting troupe with much sentiment among them— making every moment on stage lively and inviting, asking the audience to join them in their merriment as they put on a production of Scrooge.’And while many of the actors are pleasantly whimsical there are some that are downright frightening.
Jacob Marley (Eddie Brence) slinks to the stage like a demon raised straight from the depths of hell. Looking more like a zombie from night of the living dead than anything else, Brence’s booming baritone voice — assisted with a slightly augmented microphone echo — sends menacing shivers up Scrooge’s spine, keeping the spirit of Christmas just a bit spooky as he foretells of the ghosts yet to come.Christmas Past (Rachel Bailey) is the Christmas Ballerina Fairy Clown. With a chipper squeaky voice that is so soprano it could break glass, her gaiety is contagious as she races Scrooge through the past. She is youthful and childlike in her portrayal of the shade, making joy her main expression throughout her time featured on stage.
While floating through the past Scrooge encounters a few good performers, mainly Mr. Fezziwig (Ed Klein) and Mrs. Fezziwig (Erin Adams) and the loveable Belle (Jessica Welch who doubles as the company’s exotic belly dancer) all of whom spark fond memories for the miserable miser. Klein and Adams have a joviality about them that spreads through the party scene faster than the actors can dance to the upbeat jig. And Welch is as lovely an innocent youth as she is tragic when she slips away from Scrooge like a snowflake melting from the heat of his thirst for gold.
It wouldn’t be a party without a proper band of spirits playing the Ghost of Christmas Present (Kathryn Hamilton, Kyla Hammond, and Kacey Gavlin). This trio of wickedly funny and nonsensical clowns wrap Scrooge up in the delights of the season, showcasing everything under the sun for his enjoyment. Hamilton, Hammond, and Gavlin work in synch to perfection and provide great bouts of hilarity for the audience to enjoy, especially when they come zooming through the house with candy and balloons! Their whimsy and playful nature is astounding and not to be outdone, except as they try to play against one another seeing who makes for the most adorably hijinxing fairy clown of them all.
And when we come down to it — the prop girl as Tiny Tim (Adrianne DuChateau) and the stage manager as Scrooge (Yury Lomakin) simply take your breath away in these classic roles. DuChateua has a nervous disposition as the prop girl which quickly dissolves and adapts to her limping illness as Tiny Tim. Her presence is brief on the stage but when she is there all eyes are on her — especially when she’s playing the doorbell to Scrooge’s workhouse.
As for Lomakin, while a bit young in the face he does not let that deter him from taking on one of the most impressive renditions of Scrooge I’ve seen all holiday season. With a stiffened gait and wretched attitude, Lomakin wipes the youth clean out of his physicality and character, presenting the cold-hearted fist-to-the-grindstone man we all recognize Scrooge to be. His emotions are played with a genuine approach, making his transformation all the more stunning and slightly comical when he starts rolling about on the stage like a literal new-born baby.
It’s a marvelous production to see — the best non-traditional non-musical version by far. You must make it out to see this circus of wonder, or you might just be getting a visit from old Marley and the three spirits of Christmas!
Running Time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
A Christmas Carol plays through Sunday, December 16, 2012 at Arts Collective @HCC at The Smith Theatre at Horowitz Center at Howard County Community College – 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, in Columbia, MD. For tickets, call the box office (443) 518-1500, or purchase them online.
Read a preview of A Christmas Carol by Sue Kramer.