Ironic as it may be, nothing says Christmas more than bah humbug, Ebenezer Scrooge’s notorious term for holiday “endearment.” Therefore, Triad Stage’s fifth annual production of A Christmas Carol, performing at the Hanesbrands Theatre in Winston-Salem, is the tradition waited for all year.
This Preston Lane adaptation remains aligned with Dickens’ now classic premise, beloved and recognized by us all. Long hardened by obsessive greed and self-importance, the curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge is cautioned by his former business partner – now deceased – of the consequences of his wicked ways and of the night’s impending visits from three Christmas spirits. As the night goes on, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future all reveal to Scrooge attributes of himself and the world around him. In the end, Ebenezer Scrooge, so moved by the night’s experiences, awakens transformed on Christmas Day and vows to alter the trajectory of his life with kindness and generosity.
The cast is a wonderful mix of actors of various ages, all committed to their roles and, impressively, to a successful execution of the British accent. However, the ensemble’s true gift to the audience shone in the performance of David E. Smith’s original compositions, musically directed by Justin P. Cowan. Smith’s music sung by the cast’s collective voices provided a richness often lacking from other productions of the familiar tale.
Andrew Boyer was perfectly crotchety as the cheer-sucking Ebenezer Scrooge. He stepped into this year’s production with big shoes to fill, and confidently delivered his own incarnation of the character. Boyer allowed the audience to follow his character’s emotional journey every step of the way, and by the end, his infectious laughter and jovial enthusiasm almost brought tears to everyone’s eyes.
Gwendolyn Jones as Mrs. Fezziwig and Ghost of Christmas Present was a bonafide star. Affectionately remembered by local audiences for her brassy performance in Triad Stage’s spring production of Pump Boys and Dinettes, Jones owned the stage with her commanding presence and robust voice. She was able to breathe so much life and complexity into her characters that for a moment one forgot that the play was not solely about her.
Director Bryan Conger is able to tap into many of the elements that make the theatre thrilling. Alongside his creative team (John Coyne, scenic design; Kelsey Hunt, costume design; and Nicholas Hussong, projection design), a world of magical possibilities has been constructed in this production. Ghosts appear abruptly out of unexpected places, characters soar over crashing oceans or relive forgotten vignettes projected upon screens above them. Characters even tower and spin high above other characters, or are adorned with glowing and shimmering embellishments from head to toe.
Triad Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol illuminated the sentiments that are most evident this time of year. As we collectively experience the power of the holiday season, it should be remembered that one must seek and cherish the warmth of loved ones, and not fall victim to the coldness of materialism. With great sincerity, the play pleads for its audience to hold fast to the parable of Scrooge: honor Christmas in thy heart and try to keep it all the year.
A Christmas Carol continues through Sunday, December 21. For more details on this production, please view the sidebar.