Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Trinity Repertory Company ushers in the holiday season for their 40th Anniversary of their production of “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens and adapted by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming. The show’s underlying themes of charity, forbearance and benevolence are universal and are equally relevant to people of all religions and backgrounds especially with the unsettling events in this country and around the world. This familiar tale is about the curmudgeonly miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by the ghosts of Jacob Marley, Christmas Past, Present and Future who hope to change his destiny and save his soul to ultimately discover the true meaning of Christmas.
Directors Stephen Thorne and Angela Brazil, who are husband and wife in real life, create an excellent retelling of this well known Christmas tale, blending the comic and dramatic moments together perfectly while musical director, Michael Rice, plays lead keyboards and conducts a five piece orchestra. Choreographer Yon Tande makes the performers shine in their dance numbers especially the Christmas Present tap dance extravaganza. The expertise of them makes the audience thoroughly enjoy the show from start to finish with their enthusiastic applause and standing ovation at the close of the night.
Stephen and Angela give the cast some brilliant comic moments to play and then leave you in tears at the poignant ones. Leading this huge cast this year is Joe Wilson Jr. as Scrooge. He played an athletic Christmas Present a few years ago while flying over the heads of the audience. Joe runs the gamut of emotions as the curmudgeonly miser. His comic moments include yelling at his nephew, Fred, his employee, Bob Cratchit, the solicitors for the poor and the carolers to stop singing, flying in his bed, dancing with Christmas Present and throwing the coal bucket down the stairs. However the power of this role occurs in the dramatic moments with Fan’s death, the break up with Belle and the death of Tiny Tim. This is where the audience is moved to tears at his strong dramatic performance in these scenes. Scrooge’s transformation sequence is astonishing to behold. The audience discovers how Scrooge has turned into a better man by learning from the past, present and the future. A lesson we could learn in the present day, too. Joe delivers a powerhouse performance in this role. Bravo!
The first ghost to scare the audience is Daniel Duque-Estrada as Jacob Marley. I last reviewed him as Lysander in “Midsummer Night’s Dream” last season. He scares not only Scrooge but the entire audience as well with his emphatic delivery of his lines as he is swept back into the depths of the theatre. The three ghosts are excellently played in this show. Christmas Past is well played by Anne Scurria who has enormous false eyelashes. She chastises him as they look back on how he enjoyed Christmas with his sister, Fan, and at the Fezziwigs party when he fell in love with Belle. Her entrance as this ghost is stunning and she commands the stage in this role while tearing each page of the scene as it passes by. Anne is a hoot in this role.
David-Allen Sumner does a topnotch job as Boy Scrooge as does his sister, Qiana Sumner who plays Fan. They are also very funny in the musical chair segment at Fred’s party. Belle is played with a great deal of warmth and charm by Jayne McLendon. Her break up scene is perfect and played with a great sincerity which brings tears to your eyes. Taavon Gamble is excellent as Young Man Scrooge as he captures the loving attitude with Belle, the callousness later on and the anguish when they break up. He also has strong singing voice, too. Mrs. Fezziwig is well played by Rachael Warren who brings the needed levity and laughter which is much needed and appreciated at this point of the show. She enters on a swinging bell as she is flown in to the scene. The dancing is terrific and excellently executed by the cast members. Rachael is gangbusters as Mrs. Fezziwig.
Christmas Present is excellently played by Orlando Hernandez. His entrance has to be seen to be believed as he enters down a zipline. The spirit not only spreads Christmas cheer but teaches Scrooge how to be kinder to his fellow man. Orlando is in constant motion tap dancing during almost his whole scene. The Spirit forces Scrooge to dance, too. One of Stephen and Angela’s hidden comic gems in the show. John Dwyer is terrific as Fred. He brings a great deal of energy to this role. Shaffany Terrell plays his beautiful wife, Lucy and she displays her voice in “Must be St. Nick” song. Stephen and Angela also show a poignant scene where Present shows Scrooge the miners as they sing a tear jerking number sung beautifully by Oriana Lada. Taavon Gamble, Shaffany and Qiana play Christmas Future who frightens the audience with an ominous presence and demeanor while showing Scrooge, the Old Joe, the death of Tim and the gravestone scene where he is flung down on top of it. They move in perfect unison as this menacing demon while dressed in skeleton masks.
John Noble Barrack plays the likeable Bob Cratchit wonderfully while Oriana Lada plays his spunky wife. He has some comic moments early on in the show and in the first family scene but shows his acting prowess in the death of Tiny Tim scene. The children, Martha, Peter, and Belinda are well played by the talented Anai Nightingale, Sofia Borges, who is also dynamite as the turkey girl and Samuel Wright. Joshua Pacheco does a marvelous job as Tiny Tim. He gives the character the pathos and spunk to pull it off. Janice Duclos is hilarious as Old Jo in the counting house sequence with Orlando as the Undertaker’s man, Jayne McLendon as the Laundress, and Rebecca Gibel as Mrs. Dilber. Rebecca also appears in the first and is so hilarious in this role while singing the wrong lyrics to songs and saying some malapropisms when she is scared by Scrooge near the end of the show. So for one of the best ways to celebrate Christmas and the 40th Anniversary of this dynamite show, be sure to catch this well directed and well acted “A Christmas Carol” at Trinity Rep. It will definitely cheer you up at this festive time of year and make you laugh and cry in all the right moments.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL (9 November to 31 December)
Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI
1(401)351-4242 or www.trinityrep.com