Review: ‘A Christmas Carol 2018’ at Wolf Pack Theatre Company

This isn’t your mother and father’s A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. In this present day version, Ebenezer Scrooge’s father Andrew runs the charitable Scrooge Family Foundation. Tim Cratchit suffers because his family can’t pay for both the experimental drug treatments not covered by their insurance plan and their house.

Angel Duque as Young Ebenezer, Miranda Austin-Tharp as Young Belle, Tim Jansen as Ebenezer Scrooge and Katy Chmura as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.

Wolf Pack Theatre Company’s A Christmas Carol 2018 is a must-see for audiences of all ages. It has direction and adaptation by Wolf Pack Founder William Dean Leary; musical direction and original songs by Jennifer Quilty and amazing technical direction and special effects by Stephen Beitzell.

Tim Jansen’s portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge was marvelous (Jansen won this publication’s Best of Actor in a Leading Role as Ebenezer for A Christmas Carol 2015). His interactions with his fellow actors were superb, and, if acting is reacting, Jansen did a lot of reacting. As well as the story is known, Jansen was still able to create suspense: Just how far will Ebenezer go in the pursuit of money? Will Ebenezer find the faith he lost years ago?

Among the many acting gems in the show, a number of them were turned in by Katy Chmura in her fourth Wolf Pack show. Chmura stood out in her role as the Ghost of Christmas Past, who was also presented as the ghost of Ebenezer’s mother. With her red, electric-lit cape and blond wig—courtesy of Costumers Dannielle Beitzell, Eileen Murray Kraft and Leary—and angelic singing voice, Chmura was wonderful to watch. She sang magnificently in “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” and “All Through the Night.”

Michael Reeher, who has sung with Placido Domingo and for two Popes, not only had intense scenes with Young Scrooge (Angel Duque) as Ebenezer’s father, but did some of the best singing I’ve heard in many years in “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” (which included a solo), “All Through the Night” and “Oh Holy Night.” Reeher also played the Ghost of Christmas Present, complete with a purple, electric-lit cape.

Duque, recently seen in Wolf Pack’s Spring Awakening, had a powerful scene—full of passion and rejection—with Miranda Austin Tharp’s Young Belle. Duque and Tharp dueted in Quilty’s original number “Whatever the Price.” Duque and Young Sarah (Ebenezer’s sister, played by Kaitlyn Elizabeth Gebhardt) performed the lively number “Up on the Housetop,” which included some spiffy hoofing.

The haunting Jacob Marley scene was intense thanks to Michael Angeloni in his third appearance in Wolf Pack’s A Christmas Carol. You could feel the weighty angst and the chains that confined Marley. Zach Walsh (who will soon direct his first feature film, Prosperity Creek), as Bob Cratchit, channeled his inner Jim Croce in “Silent Night.” Walsh brought weariness and anxiety to his role as the overworked, underpaid Cratchit.

Kaitlyn Elizabeth Gebhardt as Young Tim, Tim Jansen as Ebenezer Scrooge, Zack Walsh as Bob Cratchitt, Michael Reeher as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Elizabeth A. Weiss as Rachel Cratchitt and Sari Gabel as Hope Cratchitt. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.
Kaitlyn Elizabeth Gebhardt as Young Tim, Tim Jansen as Ebenezer Scrooge, Zack Walsh as Bob Cratchitt, Michael Reeher as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Elizabeth A. Weiss as Rachel Cratchitt and Sari Gabel as Hope Cratchitt. Photo by Rachel Zirkin Duda.

Elizabeth A. Weiss, played well the helplessness and anger of a mother of an ill child. Weiss sang wonderfully in “Birthday of a King.” Gebhardt emotionally soloed “In the Bleak Midwinter,” accompanied by Marco Garcia’s violin. The band was rounded out by Quilty on keyboards, Aubrey Blount on drums, Tony Risotto on bass/guitar, Rebecca Overly on french horn and Zander Overly on trumpet.

“Patapan” featured energetic, harmonized dancing by the full cast—and Christmas sweaters. The cast also performed “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and the original “It’s the Message of Christmastime.” Other notable performances were turned in by Rachel Zirkin-Duda (Pastor Charlotte), Lauren Nicole-Gabel (Belle), and Peter Orvetti (Edward).

Beitzell gave the show blue lights, white lights, strobe lights, star lights and every conceivable mood-setting light for the show’s disparate scenes. Leary’s set design featured 16 Christmas trees—all in First Baptist Church of Hyattsville sanctuary’s limited space. Leary smartly had his actors use some of the pew area as well as the pulpit area.

Wolf Pack continues to produce stellar productions. This version of A Christmas Carol promises to be one of the most original and superbly performed versions this year.

Running Time: Two hours and 35 minutes, with a 15-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays through December 16, 2018, at Wolf Pack Theatre Company performing at the First Baptist Church of Hyattsville, MD – 5701 42nd Avenue in Hyattsville, MD. Buy tickets at the door or purchase them online.

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