The brilliant story of the original Humbug has been part of the Christmas season since it first rolled off the quill of Charles Dickens, the author who was the social conscience of 19th Century Britain. It is as alive today as it was when first published in 1843 titled “A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost-Story of Christmas.”
This little ghost story tells of Ebenezer Scrooge an old miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley, who tells him that he will be visited by apparitions during the evening before Christmas.
Like a drowning man, Scrooge’s life passes before his eyes guided by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. He finally realizes his life has been wasted and the Grinch is transformed into a kinder, giving, gentle man, who keeps Christmas in his world and heart.
The adaptation of the timeless story is by James Venturini, the theatre’s Associate Artistic Director. Venturini stays true to the original, which fits perfectly into the intimate theatre.
Alan Wilkie directs the spooky Christmas fable. His work is made easier by his crew and hard-working cast.
Andrew Redford designs an excellent minimal set which gives the surrounding audience an unconstructive view of the entire stage, no matter where seated. Redford is a young talent who is just testing his set design wings and shows great promise. In the upstage right corner of the center-staged set, he has placed the Poultry Shop which is juxtaposed in the upstage left by the parlor of Scrooge’s home; just to the left of that is the miser’s bed. The entire center of the stage floor acting area is filled with the gray brick street in a circular design with the omni-present manhole cover entrance to the sewer in the very center. Various set pieces are brought on and off stage to change the scenes to Scrooge’s office, the Cratchit home, Fezziwig’s business, a graveyard – all of the locations visited by the miser during his journey through the night. Redford’s very workable set is a boon to the director.
Jacob Viramontes does the eerie lighting design; John Munn does sound. Deborah L. Armstrong is music director. Armstrong brings out the best of her Carolers. Kait Mahoney as choreographer executes a charming period dance for Fezziwig’s party. The authentic costumes are by Virginia Yanoff. Melissa Harris is Stage Manager.
Wilkie moves his cast about the stage in smooth transitions from scene to scene, and the cast responds to the direction perfectly in the myriad of roles each actor assumes. In fact, all but one actor has many roles. Each of the director’s cast morph from one character to another with ease and understanding.
Ernest Balezi is the Turkey Boy, Citizen #5 plus two more parts. Tommy Ice is a Caroler and Reginald. Gabi Chappell is Belinda, a Caroler and two more roles. Andrea Gordon is the oldest Cratchit daughter, Martha, as well as Belle and three other roles. Isaac Gutierrez is Fred, Belle’s Husband and two other roles.
Abbie Wachter is a forlorn Boy Scrooge, Want and a Caroler. Atom Hill is an ambitious Young Scrooge; he also plays Peter and a Caroler.
Audrey Stowe is Ignorance, Little Girl, Fan and a charming Tiny Tim. As the youngest Cratchit, Stowe uses her crutch as though it were part of her being, making her portrayal of the game child quite believable.
The Ghosts who visit Scrooge are Alex Koerger as Marley’s Ghost, as well as Fezziwig and Old Joe. As Marley’s apparition, Koerger is fearful and tormented; as Fezziwig, he is jovial and loving.
Christine Choate is wistful as the Ghost of Christmas Past; she also plays a Niece and Citizen #3.
Gary Chambers is resplendent as the Ghost of Christmas Present; Chambers also is a caroler and a Businessman.
Ed Jacobs is ominous as The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come; he also appears as a Citizen and the Poulterer.
Callie Williams is a loving, motherly Mrs. Cratchit; she is good Citizen and a Caroler. However, as the Charwoman, Williams almost steals the show when dealing with the rag-buyer
W. Scott Pinkston is a strong presence as Charles Dickens, who narrates the play as Dickens wrote it. Pinkston brings forth hope for Dickens’ hopeless miser. Like two sides of the same coin, Pinkston also plays Bob Cratchit, the hireling of kind heart who is so mistreated by his employer.
Joseph Grant is the Humbug around whom Dickens wrote his ghostly story with a happy ending. Grant, one of the South Sound’s best actors dons the changing skin of Ebenezer Scrooge with alacrity. Grant shifts from skinflint to benefactor with a venerable flow of change. Grant’s emotions show on his face; he is grey and dim with the overcast look of storm at opening curtain running the gambit to sunshine and brightness of smile by final curtain.
“A Christmas Carol” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, just behind the Pierce Transit Bus Depot through December 17, each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is also a Thursday, December 7 “Pay-What-You-Can” Actor’s Benefit performance at 8 p.m.
For more information or reservations, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
‘Tis the Season! Come to the Lakewood Playhouse to learn the true meaning of the Season from the man who grew up in a time of dismal future prospects and made his own fortune in exposing those hardships to help bring about the transformation of a country’s feelings toward the downtrodden by way of his writings. Take joy in Ebenezer Scrooge’s joy of redemption and promise to live the rest of your lives as he did – as a friend and helper of all mankind.
“God bless us, everyone.”