By Karen Isaacs
Hartford Stage’s production of A Christmas Carol – a Ghost Story of Christmas has been going strong for 17 years — a gift to the people of Connecticut from the former artistic director Michael Wilson who conceived and produced it initially.
That it continues to delight — and many people see it year after year — is a testament to the quality of the adaptation. It is not a sugar-coated version with lots of carolers in lush Victorian dress. Many of the characters are poor and look poor.
This is the second year of three year project of revitalization of the production. The script hasn’t changed, it is just that the production values have been up-graded and new technology has been used to enhance the effectiveness of the production.
While last year, you could recognize some changes, this year the almost full impact is visible. What a lift this gives the entire production.
It would seem that with many cast members returning year after year, each year’s production would be same. But no. Some years the show just seems to take flight more than others. This year it positively soars.
In Wilson’s telling of this familiar story of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and learns to care more about people and less about money, the emphasis is on the ghosts; both the three ghosts who visit Scrooge one Christmas Eve, the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, and also ghosts in general.
This year, as part of Hartford Stage’s 50th anniversary, the production has been renewed and refreshed by Wilson, Tresnjak and Associate Artistic Director Maxwell Williams.
Many of the cast members have returned; some have played their parts for years. Mostly local children play the children including Tiny Tim and students from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School are the ghosts, guests at the parties and members of the streetscape.
Once again Bill Raymond is Scrooge. This year, Raymond — a gifted actor and a marvelous clown — controlled his humorous shtick more than in recent years. Yes, at times he goes for a laugh but I did not feel he was circumventing the darkness of the character. He truly did seem like a humanity hating, money loving miser though occasionally he was more like an eccentric uncle. This made his the reclamation on Christmas day more dramatic and meaningful.
This year the ghosts seemed to soar and dart about the stage and the lighting effects highlight, Marley’s ghost as hovered over Scrooge. The scenery seemed fresher and the party and street scenes were better populated.
Special recognition should be given to Maxwell Williams who lovingly directed it, ZFX, Inc. for handled the flying effects, lighting designer Robert Wierzel and scenic designer Tony Straiges.
Young children may find the ghosts scary but children from 7 and up and their adults will thoroughly enjoy this magical production.
A Christmas Carol- A Ghost Story of Christmas is at the Hartford Stage Company, 50 Church St, Hartford, through Dec. 28. For tickets and information, call the box office at 860-527-5151 or visit www.HartfordStage.org.