‘A Christmas Carol’ at Providence Players of Fairfax by Julia L. Exline

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FOUR AND A HALF STARS
Providence Players of Fairfax presents the holiday favorite, A Christmas Carol, based on the novella by Charles Dickens and adapted for the stage by Janet Allard and Michael Bigelow Dixon. Keeping heart with the true meaning of Christmas for this production, The Providence Players of Fairfax teams up with The Young Hearts – a charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of young people affected by long-term illnesses through raising funds and awareness, with half of the net proceeds of the production going to help find a cure for blood cancers though the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.Taking in a festive show while knowing that some of the proceeds benefits a good cause? Sounds like a perfect holiday outing to me!

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Brian O’Connor juggles three impressive titles for this production: Director, Set Designer, and Sound Designer. The cast delivers a solid performance that can only be encouraged by solid direction, and the set is expansive and clever. Inspired by the Christmas advent calendar, multiple windows set into brick buildings open throughout the show (with characters popping in and out of them all the while), revealing an open, welcoming atmosphere by the show’s end. Construction and painting led by Brian O’Connor and Patrick David make for a nice overall set. However, the sound quality at my performance needed some polishing, as there were a few awkward incidences involving abrupt cut-offs and some drowning out of narration and dialogue. I’m confident that these sound issues will be resolved in time for the next performance.

Chip Gertzog does a fine job with lighting design, using icy blue hues for evening scenes and spotlighting to highlight certain actions.

As far as technical elements, I especially loved the costume design by Beth Whitehead and Cathy Hale. The traditional Victorian designs that you would expect at a A Christmas Carol are there, amongst them the fur-lined bonnets and caroling cape skirts for women, and cape coats and Lincoln top hats for men. If the overall effect of this wardrobe does not inspire some Christmas cheer, then something is wrong! The outfits for the three spirits are nicely done as well, beginning with a ethereal, airy white dress that seems weightless, a luxurious fur robe, and a haunting, faceless black cape.

Most likely, you’re familiar with the tale of the grumpy curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge (John Barclay Burns, who does a fine job of sailing from one end of the emotional spectrum to the other) who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve with the hopes of changing his dismal fate. The ensemble narrates this production together, with the majority of the description told by Charwoman Cheryl Sinsabaugh, who does an excellent job delivering such eloquent material. When the miserable ghost of Scrooge’s old business partner warns him of the visits (a chilling performance by David Whitehead as Jacob Marley), Scrooge settles in for an anxious night. The Ghost of Christmas Past (Eryn Gleason at my performance) moves with the delicate grace of a dancer, and reminds Scrooge of his past regrets and resentments.

A scene from Scrooge’s youth of a lively business party brings some pep to the production, with Zachary Todd and Charlene Sloan shining as the humorous Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. Next comes the boisterous, friendly Ghost of Christmas Present (Bill Fleming), who shows Scrooge the delights of friendship that he is missing out on, including an entertaining party thrown by his nephew Fred (Derek Bradley) and a playful (if meager) Christmas dinner at his employee Bob Cratchit’s (Stuart Fischer) house. Growing more and more compassionate as the night goes on, a frightened Scrooge realizes that an awful fate awaits him…but is he too late to change it?

Ebenezer Scrooge (John Barklay Burns) is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (David Whitehead). Photo by Chip Gertzog.
Ebenezer Scrooge (John Barklay Burns) is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (David Whitehead). Photo by Chip Gertzog.

There were some performances that seemed a bit stiff and scripted, but for the most part the cast shone with talent. Bill Fleming is wonderful as The Ghost of Christmas Present, beginning his time onstage with zest and jubilance and then slowly fading into a weaker and weaker state as he ages. A handful of young actors round out the cast, and they bring fine performances (wait till you see Tyler Demille as Tiny Tim – ridiculously and overwhelmingly adorable). Brendan Dure shows some real burgeoning talent in a bevy of roles, including a Young Scrooge and a Child of Ignorance.

Providence Players of Fairfax’s take on A Christmas Carol  is a playful one, and I especially enjoyed when the narrator had to pointedly shout, “He was early to the office next morning!” at Scrooge a second time, because he was simply having too much fun to obey the stage commands.

I had an enjoyable evening at The Providence Players’ production of A Christmas Carol. Take a break from the overcrowded malls and re-visit the true meaning of Christmas with your family!

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

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A Christmas Carol plays through December 15, 2013 at The Providence Players of Fairfax performing at The James Lee Community Center Theater – 2855 Annandale Road, in Falls Church, VA. For tickets, call (703) 425-6782,  or purchase them online.

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The Young Hearts website.

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Leukemia & Lymphoma Society website.

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The Providence Players of Fairfax website.