Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tonight's Theater: A Christmas Carol at South Coast Repertory

The South Coast Repertory production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a tradition for many Orange County theatergoers. The show is now in its 32nd season, and for all 32 of those years, Hal Landon Jr. has starred as Ebenezer Scrooge.

I saw the show with my parents a couple of times in the early '80s and enjoyed it very much. I've wanted to go again for years, but for various reasons the timing was never quite right.

This year our daughters signed up for a program at South Coast Repertory which makes inexpensive tickets available to theatergoers ages 15-25. (A couple months ago they loved a South Coast Rep production of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.) 2011 was thus finally the year for our family to go see A CHRISTMAS CAROL!

The production was as enjoyable as I remembered. Landon is simply a must-see as Scrooge. I've read that when Landon began playing the role, he had to use old-age makeup, but as the decades have gone on, much of that makeup is no longer needed! He makes Scrooge interesting in his various stages, and his joy on Christmas morning is infectious. His somersault across his bed, coming up wearing his top hat, is a classic theatrical moment.

The rest of the cast is generally strong; I found William Francis McGuire (Fred), Daniel Blinkoff (Bob Cratchit), and Timothy Landfield (Spirit of Christmas Present) particularly noteworthy among the large cast.

There are some excellent special effects for a small theater, ranging from snow to the spirits coming and going in mysterious ways. I also liked the use of music, particularly at the end of Act I.

As with the recent production I saw of MARY POPPINS, this is a color-blind production. Some of the casting thus does have the effect of mentally taking the viewer out of Victorian London. However, as SCR notes in the program, they have made a decision to set the story in London, yet it is not designed to be "specifically British or realistic."

A CHRISTMAS CAROL most definitely leaves the audience filled with Christmas cheer. It closes on Christmas Eve.

Related posts: Tonight's Theater: The Phantom of the Opera; Tonight's Theater: My Fair Lady; Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 14, 2010); Tonight's Theater: South Pacific (October 22, 2010); Tonight's Theater: Beauty and the Beast; Tonight's Theater: Mary Poppins; Tonight's Theater: West Side Story.


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