Absolutely every time.
I know that Tiny Tim doesn’t die. I know that Bob and all the Cratchits will have a brighter future. I know that Ebenezer Scrooge will emerge a wiser and better man in the end.
Yet I still find myself as deeply caught up in the magic of Charles Dickens’ story as I was the very first time my grandmother read it to me. There may even be a tear or two shed along the way as Scrooge’s journey to learn the true meaning of Christmas is once again brought to life. (All right, there’s a tear every time!)
Certainly the charming pro-duction of A Christmas Carol, currently running until December 15, at Upper Canada Playhouse, is thrilling audiences of all ages. With a lively cast of 12 (the role of Tiny Tim is shared), this is a fast paced, music and dance filled staging that breathes new life into the 200 year old tale.
“We are able to couple tradition with innovation in this play,” said director Donnie Bowes. “We’ve added more music to the show, and lots of dance. And since it’s actually a ghost story at heart, this production allows special effects and original interpretations.”
Jamie Williams as the Ghost of Jacob Marley takes full advantage of those delightfully spooky effects when he climbs on stage. Despite the frightened Scrooge’s attempts to dismiss him as a bit of “undigested beef”, Marley’s howls and clanking chains send shivers down the spine.
He’s just the sort of thing one does not want to find stalking about the bedchamber after a late dinner.
Poor Scrooge. Jacob Marley’s ghost is only the first apparition to appear to him in the course of a very long Christmas eve. Ghosts Doug Tangney as Past and Bruce Tubbe as Present are memorable beings. Tangney’s ghost is a merry sprite: Tubbe’s bearded spectre grander than life. The Ghost of Christmas Future (Warren Bain) may not speak, but when he lifts his skeletal hand, he doesn’t need to. We understand. So does Scrooge, who finally grasps that this is his last chance to re-join the human race.
Richard Bauer, with his slicked back hair and his pointed eyebrows, snarling at everyone, is the epitome of mean. Roaring at his unfortunate clerk, Bob, or insulting his only nephew Fred, Bauer makes Scrooge spectacularly unrepentent…until he undergoes his journey of self discovery Christmas eve.
The cast of A Christmas Carol is highly versatile. Each (with the exception of Scrooge) plays several roles, yet succeeds in creating fully rounded characters. There is wonderful music in the show, which underlays and punctuates the action on stage. Was there ever such a party as the Fezziwigs’? Did “O Holy Night” ever sound so lovely? Were the street people of Victorian London ever such talented dancers?
The revolving set for the play (under the guidance of technical director, Sean Free) and the stunning wigs and costumes (by Alex Amini) are an integral part of the on stage magic. The backstage crew do yeoman’s work, keeping the actors on cue despite numerous split second costume changes.
The musical finale is par-ticularly wonderful. You would truly have to have a heart ten sizes too small not to be caught up in the exuberance of the cast.
A Christmas Carol runs until December 15. Contact the Playhouse at 543-3713 for times and ticket information.
And, as Tiny Tim (Liam and Gavin Veinotte) observes, in the words we await every Christmas, “God bless us, everyone.”