I never feel like I’m fully in the Christmas spirit until I’ve donned an ugly sweater, had a gingerbread cookie and watched a production of A Christmas Carol. Little Theatre of Alexandria’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is a fantastic show that will turn even the Scroogiest among us into a Christmas-loving fool.
A Christmas Carol, originally written by Charles Dickens and adapted for the stage by Donna Ferragut and directed by Shelagh Roberts, is the story of the miserly, uncaring Ebenezer Scrooge (Brian Lyons-Burke) and his journey of self-discovery and redemption. He is visited first by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (Larry Grey), and then later by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Taegan Chirinos), Present (Colin Davies), and Future (Tim Foley), who usher Scrooge through different scenes of his life.
The set design (John Downing) makes clever use of the intimate stage, creating levels and unique areas for the various settings. Director Shelagh Roberts utilizes this space with great success, often setting up scenes in one darkened part of the stage while other scenes go on elsewhere.
Lyons-Burke plays a quintessential Scrooge – curmudgeonly, bitter, and haughty at first, and then joyous and repentant after his ghostly intervention. For some people, Lyons-Burke will be their first Scrooge, an excellent performance that few actors could ever live up to.
Grey pulls double duty as surly and spooky Jacob Marley and the affable Mr. Fezziwig. He differentiates the roles wonderfully by using different physicality and voices. Chirinos is ethereal and lithe as the ghost of Christmas Past, Scrooge’s tour guide through his past. She adds warmth and tenderness to her scenes with Lyons-Burke, who in turn begins to soften his demeanor. When Davies arrives to haunt Scrooge as the ghost of Christmas Present, the tone of the play turns from somber to delightfully genial. Davies also plays two completely different characters. In addition to the ghost of Christmas Present, he opens the show as Charles Dickens with a light-spirited monologue he delivers toward the audience, with some super fun audience interaction. Foley rounds out the ghostly trio as the ghost of Christmas Future. Foley is traditionally dressed as a Grim Reaper-esque phantom, and while not much taller than Lyons-Burke, seemed to command the stage with his ominous and frightening interpretation. Foley also performs admirably in other ensemble roles and particularly shines as the Poulterer.
While certainly the biggest parts of any production of A Christmas Carol are Scrooge and the ghosts, what separates Little Theatre of Alexandria’s production from others is its excellent ensemble. While all of the children (Harry Barnes, Natalie Cavender, Alex Eskew, Avery Clifford Evans, Josh Gordon, James Kennedy, Sarah King, Miranda Tonsetic, and Catherine Walters) are adorable and do a marvelous job playing and distinguishing different characters, a real standout ensemble member was Raeanna Nicole Larson as Belle. Larson’s Belle is kind and loving during the scene at Fezziwig’s when she first meets Young Scrooge (Nic Barta). When Barta later becomes the colder, less feeling Scrooge, Larson pours her heart out in a deeply emotional, gut-wrenching and upsetting breakup. Barta and Larson pair well together not only as Belle and Young Scrooge, but later as Topper and Ruth in a much sweeter, sillier scene.
The other adult ensemble members (Joel Durgavich, Robert Ford, Brittany Huffman, Molly Johnson, Donna Lovelace, Cameron McBride, Jillian McLeod, and Christine Tankersley) are absolutely worth mentioning as well as they build this Victorian world expertly. No lines were thrown away. Everyone used British accents that were not only good but varied depending on the social status of the character (more kudos to Colin Davies who also acted as dialect coach).
Another astonishing aspect of this adaptation were all the additional, traditional Christmas carols added seamlessly into the story. Music Director Linda Wells took time to develop a well-balanced and richly harmonic choral experience that brought happy tears to my eyes.
No matter how many times this story is told, the moral continues to be relevant, possibly even more so than ever before. To quote Shelagh Roberts, “Dickens leaves us not with despair but with a lesson in the power and possibility of transformation.” A Christmas Carol is a must-see play that is truly a feast for the soul.
Running Time: One hour and 20 minutes, with no intermission.