By Christina Perryman
I have to make a confession. This holiday season, people seem more short-tempered and demanding than normal and instead of it being the normal, happy, joyful season for me, I’ve felt out of sorts. So when I saw Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” at The Colonial Playhouse recently, the show (magnificently directed by Barry Chidress) was a much needed reminder of how easy it is to lose sight of Christmas and how important it is to be present and not let the big picture overshadow the everyday.
The show, adapted by Peter deLaurier, featured an excellent cast, including a stellar performance by Bill Murray as Ebenezer Scrooge.
There is a reason “A Christmas Carol” has been retold so many times. The tale is classic and timeless, even has a few thrills and chills. Scrooge, a money counter in England, has grown surly and miserly. He has no charity in his heart, sees Christmas as a bother and doesn’t want anything to do with his nephew, Fred (a genial Mike Winterode), the only child of his beloved, deceased sister. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his late business partner, Jacob Marley (Jim Hulme), who passes on a dire message. Marley is fettered by the chains he forged in life, unable to rest, unable to find peace, doomed to walk the earth with his heavy burden. In the seven years since Marley died, Scrooge has forged chains even more burdensome. But there is a glimmer of hope — Scrooge can change his destiny. Marley explains that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who can help.
The first spirit (nicely played by Brooke Wheeler), the Ghost of Christmas Past, reminds Scrooge of his past — his lonely childhood, his sister, Fan, his promising future and the loss of his love, Belle (Gabby O’Neill). The second spirit (spectacularly played by Hulme), the Ghost of Christmas Present, shows Scrooge what he is missing while he focuses on his money — time spent with family as well as the troubles of his dutiful clerk, Bob Cratchit (a nuanced performance by Sean Wiley) and his family, including his lame son, Tiny Tim (Freddy Cubler III was wonderful).
The final spirit, The Ghost of Christmas Future (Winterode), shows Scrooge a bleak future where a lonely man dies with no one to miss him and Tiny Tim is only a memory for his family. Throughout his experience, Scrooge realizes he has squandered his time and vows to make changes, beginning with making sure Bob and his family are well taken care of.
Murray was the perfect curmudgeon as he snarled at and “bah, humbugged” everyone he met. His disbelief at the appearance of Marley was great and Scrooge’s gradual transformation was well executed. I enjoyed the times when Murray’s Scrooge got lost in the moment and dropped his guard.
The show takes place in 1840 London, which is perfectly captured in the set, designed by Barry Childress, Robin Cashin, Ron Hill and Eileen Wiley, and the costumes by Cathy Fallon and Arpy Jones. The costume for the second spirit was particularly amazing. The flowing frock was as grandiose as the spirit. This is a show where lights and sound are very important. Patrick O’Neill’s lights and Ian Gove’s sound were well done and added to the ambiance of the piece.
“A Christmas Carol” continues Dec. 8 and 9 at The Colonial Playhouse, 522 West Magnolia Ave., Aldan. Show times are 8 p.m. both nights. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for children 12 and under. The show runs an hour and a half with a 15 minute intermission. For tickets or information, call 610-622-5773 or visit www.colonialplayhouse.net. Next up for Colonial is Born Yesterday by Garson Kanin, Jan. 19-21, 26-28 and Feb. 2 and 3.