A Christmas Carol Reviewed

An Omaha holiday tradition returns

Snow? Check. Ghosts? Check. Carols? Check. Decorations? Check. Miserly old curmudgeon who hates Christmas? Check, er bah humbug.

The Omaha Community Playhouse is running its 36th annual production of A Christmas Carol on its main stage through December 23rd. There is plenty of time to take in this holiday tradition.

The first Saturday of the production boasted a nearly full crowd who were all eagerly whispering and waiting for the first carolers to take the stage. As they were sitting down, people were speculating whether there would be snow inside the theater.

This is the musical production of A Christmas Carol, adapted for the stage by Charles Jones, with musical score and orchestration by John J. Bennett. While there were a number of cast members singing at the beginning of the production, the men were definitely louder than the women and the group as a whole did not fill the auditorium.

The choice of carols seemed appropriate to the story. Musical Director Jim Boggess had a variety of ensembles singing everything from, “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and “The Holly and the Ivy” to “A Coventry Carol” and “Away in a Manger.” Overall though, the singing probably needs to be just a bit louder for those in the theatre who may be seated in the back.

With a cast of 50+ actors, headed by Jerry Longe as Scrooge, the stage was rarely empty except for a few key scenes between Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

In fact, Longe had some of his best moments while he was alone on stage. The crowds loved watching Scrooge warm his bum against the fire, get drunk off the milk of human kindness and laugh for the first time in a long time. His comic timing was great as were his facial expressions.

There were actors, including Longe, who ably carried off the Victorian accent, from Robert Stone as Jake to Ablan Roblin as Bob Cratchit. Others tried for a bit but slipped in and out depending on the scene.  

The best chemistry in the production is between the mean-spirited Scrooge and his much put upon employee, Cratchit. They shared a nice scene at the beginning that sets up their relationship quite nicely.

The most energetic scenes in the musical were the two party scenes; at Fezziwig’s in Act 1 and at Fred’s house (Scrooge’s nephew) in Act 2. The number of actors notwithstanding, there just seemed to be more to look at in terms of colorful costumes, sets and yes, sparklers. Additionally, choreographers Michelle Garrity and Courtney Stein added some fun dance numbers that allowed the red and green of the costumes to really pop.

Of the supporting actors, Courtney Stein had an entertaining turn as Lucy in the Act 2 party scene. She brought a lot of energy and laughs as the group onstage played Blind Man’s Bluff and a game of Yes and No. Her enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself smiling throughout the scene. Jenny Goos as Millie also got to have some fun in that same scene. What was her fascination with bears? Go see it and find out.

Of the children, Kian Roblin as Tiny Tim pretty much stole his scenes. He sang off-key but was so darn cute I just didn’t care. And when he uttered the famous last line, I couldn’t help but smile.

Directors Carl Beck, Susan Baer Collins and Amy Lane had quite a task staging such a large production with so many cast members of different ages and talent levels. The Victorian sets were authentic looking and easy to move. I must admit to being wowed as it snowed both onstage and on the audience (real snow). That definitely helped set the scene.

The directors made interesting choices. First up, the lights were darkened for the scenes in Scrooge’s office and home. And the colors in both were largely white, gray and black, which also contributed to this sort of dreary feel. In contrast, when the Ghost of Christmas Past appears, pink lights appear in the background. And the Ghost of Christmas Present had green lights.

The directors opted to use Scrooge’s bed as his time travel machine, so as it spins and Scrooge holds on for dear life, he is actually being transported through time and space. It was a nice touch and amusing to watch.

Sure, this is just one adaptation of the classic Charles Dickens story, and though Scrooge is not nearly as scary in this version as others, it has traditional carols, lots of special effects and will leave you feeling festive.

Two things to remember, if you do plan to take the family, you should know that with intermission, the show runs almost 2 hours and 40 minutes. It may be difficult for younger kids to make it through the whole musical. In fact, there was a child behind us who, 15 minutes from the end of the show, asked his mother, “Isn’t it over yet?” Additionally, the scene with Jacob Marley might be a bit scary for younger audience members. Marley is loud and large and travels with four minions, all of whom are bathed in green light.

With a crowd that applauded after almost each and every scene, it is safe to say this town likes ‘em some Christmas Carol. “God bless us, everyone.”

Tickets for the Omaha Community Playhouse’s 36th annual production of A Christmas Carol range from $18-$39. The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street. Call 553-0800 or visit omahaplayhouse.org.  

posted at 04:20 pm
on Sunday, November 20th, 2011

A Christmas Carol

posted at 01:23 pm
on Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

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