Review: Hope Garden Children’s Ballet Theatre Presents ‘A Christmas Carol’

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I walked in to The F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre yesterday feeling very ‘Bah Humbug-gy’ and I left overflowing with holiday joy and the spirit of the holidays after being entertained by over 40 young and veteran dancers who twirled and swirled and stretched and danced on their toes in their pointe shoes with such dedication.

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It was jaw dropping. It was gorgeous. It was so thrilling to watch the joy on the faces of these hard-working ‘athletes’ who for almost two hours had the audience in the palm of their hands, as they glided through Charles Dickens’ perennial Christmas favorite A Christmas Carol, performed to the festive and gorgeous music of Claude Debussy.

Advertised as, “an original ballet interpretation of Charles Dickens’ timeless story of the restorative power of love and generosity,” the three months of rehearsal with these enthusiastic dancers of all ages paid off handsomely as everyone from wee candy cane dancers to guest artists/dancers Dustin Kimball (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Claire Jones (an amazing, elegant ballerina and dancer), all shined.

Artistic Director Frances Drayton Ichijo deserves many kudos for pulling this off. She created a Cecil B. DeMille-like extravaganza, provided the choreography (with assistance from Guest Instructor/Choreographer Katerina Rodgaard) and the clever staging, and inspired everyone to reach for perfection.

What was most impressive and enjoyable is that everyone on the stage, especially the youngest ‘cast members,’ were having a blast, and so was the audience, applauding every move and spin and twirl these talented and inspired dancers performed. I couldn’t stop smiling and applauding, and saying when the youngest dancers appeared, “They are so adorable!”

And this A Christmas Carol had it all: Gypsies, orphans, carolers, skipping girls, Ladies of the Evening, lots of gold, Christmas Cookies, and ‘The Colors of Christmas’ that included dancing ‘Pointe Settias’; Mistletoe (Veronica Contreras); White (Lizzie Phelps); Evergreen and Peace (Brittany Wright and John Foster); Candy Canes, and Silver Bells.

And of course during all the dancing and visual delights – there were those famous Dickens characters: Ebenezer Scrooge (Young: Jacob Preis; Adult Scrooge: Dustin Kimball; and Older (Gus Creedon), Bob Cratchit (George Phelps) and his family, and of course Tiny Tim (Anderson Preis); Mr. Fezziwig (Frank Goldfield), and those famous Ghosts: Jacob Marley (Roland Jones); The Spirit of Christmas Past (Renee Terragno); The Spirit of Christmas Present (Hannah Wills);and Spirit of Christmas Future (Claire Jones) telling the miser’s story through dance.

And I have to congratulate Technical Directors Beth Fayard Jones, Jeff Jones, and Jessica McElroy and their Technical Crew Managers; Stage Managers Kim Yourick and Sarah Phelps;Lighting Designer Andy Pilla;Spot Operator Gracie Jones;Costume Director Fran Ichijo and Wardrobe Mistress Susan Sokoll and everyone who helped with the dozens and dozens of eye-popping colorful costumes; and The Set Designers, Construction and Scenic Painters and Poolesville Performing Arts Showcase for creating one of the most beautiful productions I have seen on the stage.

I want to give a special nod to Elise Preis and dancer extraordinaire John Foster who just lit up the stage every time they appeared. There were other Preis family members in the production including her brothers Jacob (Older Cratchit Son), and Anderson who melted everyone’s hearts with his portrayal of Tiny Tim. And how apropos for a story that is filled with families who look forward to celebrating Christmas together.

I could go on and on and this would be one of the longest reviews ever, so suffice to say I had a wonderful time and I wish everyone – even Ebenezer Scrooge – a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I look forward to attending future Hope Garden Children’s Ballet Theatre performances. You can call me a new fan.

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A Christmas Carol played for two performances on Saturday, November 28, 2015 at Hope Garden Children’s Ballet Theatre performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre – 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville, MD. For more information, go to their website.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.

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