By Karen Isaacs
What a wonderful holiday tradition Hartford Stage has given Connecticut with its annual production of A Christmas Carol – a Ghost Story of Christmas. It’s been going strong for 18 years, brought to Harford originally by the former artistic director Michael Wilson who conceived and produced it initially.
Over the last three years, the production has been refurbished and revitalized; even Victorian costumes can look worn after all those performances. The project is now completed and the full, glorious effect of it can be seen.
The script hasn’t changed; it opens with a parade of ghosts before launching into the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and his reclamation by visitations from the spirits of Christmas past, present and yet-to-be.
What has been changed or “been refurbished” is the backdrop of Victorian London, costumes, lighting effects which are even more ghostly and the flying. Even Marley soars during his visitations to Scrooge.
The cast has also been beefed up with more students from the Hartt School at the University of Hartford and more area children. It makes the stage seem fuller.
While many cast members remain the same year after year, this year some new comers add to the production.
Once again Bill Raymond is Scrooge. This year, Raymond — a gifted actor and a marvelous clown – sometimes goes for the easy laugh (perhaps to appease the younger audience members) but yet you do see him becoming aware of all he has missed by his actions over the years. He truly did seem like a humanity hating, money loving miser though occasionally he was more like an eccentric uncle. More than most years, I felt sorry for the man.
The Spirits are played by three “old timers”;Johanna Morrison and Alan Rust. Michael Preston who is terrific as Mr. Marvel Still a delight is Nobel Shropshire as Mrs. Dilber and Jacob Marley. Robert Hannon Davis is terrific as Bob Cratchit. Among the new members of the cast, Kristen Adele as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit added warmth and Terrell Donnell Sledge played Scrooge’s nephew Fred as well as the young Scrooge. Two children (Norah Girard and Max McGowan) alternate as Tiny Tim.
Hope Clarke has done the effective choreography with the ghosts who punctuate the production in their eerie costumes that indicate their causes of death.
Special recognition should be given to Maxwell Williams who lovingly directed it, ZFX, Inc. for handled the flying effects, lighting designer Robert Wierzel, costume designer Alejo Vietti and scenic designer Tony Straiges.
My high school granddaughter has seen this production about eight times, yet every Christmas she looks forward to seeing it again.
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 Sunday, Dec. 27. For tickets and information, call the box office at 860-527-5151 or visit HartfordStage.org.
This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and zip06.com.
By Karen Isaacs
Here’s my list of the top shows in Connecticut this past season.
- Hamlet – Hartford Stage
I’ve seen many Hamlets in my theater-going life on both stage and screen. Olivier used an Oedipal interpretation, Paul Giamatti was an older Hamlet. The Hamlet at Hartford Stage directed by Darko Tresnjak had all the elements. A clear concept, brilliant sets, costumes, lighting, and a fine cast led by Zach Appelman as Hamlet. He made all the well known speeches seem fresh and new.
- Fiddler on the Roof — Goodspeed
Fiddler has been done so often that it is hard to make it seem different. Director Rob Ruggiero and his team gave us a well cast production that evoked Russia while focusing on the individuals. I had never seen some of the supporting roles — Lazar Wolf and the future sons-in-law played so well.
- Arcadia – Yale Rep
James Bundy gave us an almost perfect production of one of my favorite Tom Stoppard plays. Yes,, there are long speeches about math, but I find the combination of the two stories, the intertwining of time, and the sheer intellectualism of it to be thrilling. The casting was terrific and it reminded me how funny the play actually is.
- The Liar – Westport
A hero who lies but is also charming, rhymed couplets and madcap fun all made this a laugh riot with great acting and great costumes.
- Reverberation – Hartford Stage
This new play by Matthew Lopez showed his progression as a playwright. Was it perfect? No, the ending did not feel right. But it was blessed with an outstanding cast, fine direction by Maxwell Williams, and terrific production values. It is THE play that I have thought about the most since I’ve seen it.
- Endurance – Split Knuckle Theater
A new theater company wowed me with their physicality and the juxtaposition of two stories — the amazing survival of the Antarctic expedition of Shackleton and a modern day executive. Creative and beautifully performed.
- Kiss Me, Kate – Hartford Stage
It is a classic of the Broadway musical stage and Darko Tresnjak did a fine job with setting it specifically in the 1940s. The costumes, set, lighting and voices were great — I quibbled with a few of the casting choices but Megan Sikora as Lois/Bianca was great. The choreography by Peggy Hickey was terrific.
- Caucasian Chalk Circle – Yale Rep
Bertol Brecht evokes strong feelings. His epic and political drama can seem preachy but in this fine Yale Rep production directed by Liz Diamond, it totally captured me.
- Woody Sez – TheaterWorks
- Holiday Inn – Goodspeed
Transferring a movie musical to the stage is a challenge that has only successfully been done a very few times. This world premier was aided by a very good cast and the addition of some of Irving Berlin’s most famous shows. It was a delight and will have a future.
Honorable Mentions: All Shook Up – Ivoryton, Dancing Lessons – TheaterWorks, Elevada -Yale Rep, Nice Work If You Can Get It – Bushnell, Picasso at Lapin Agile – Long Wharf, Pippin – Bushnell, Seen Change – The Broken Umbrella Theater, Things We Do for Love – Westport.