Review: Footlighters’ ‘Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge’ Adds Surprising Twist to Holiday Classic

“The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge” at Footlighters Theatre.

by J.S. Alleva

The name “Scrooge” from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has become synonymous with stingy, grumpy souls who seem determined to stamp out the holiday spirit. But what if the original Scrooge was never as cold-hearted as we thought?  The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge, a comedy by playwright Mark Brown, takes a witty, often moving, new look at Dicken’s classic tale in this compelling and hilarious courtroom drama.  In a surprise twist, the show turns the tables on preconceived notions about ‘holiday spirit’ and forces us to look at our own motivations during this giving season.  Opening Friday, December 1, the show runs through December 16, and is a must-see for those wanting a fun, spirited holiday romp with an extra dash of insight.

The show takes place in a London courtroom in 1844. One year has passed since Ebenezer Scrooge was visited by three Spirits: Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come.  The Spirits showed Scrooge the ‘error of his ways’ and led him to a loving change of heart.  However, the effects proved temporary.  On this, the anniversary of that fateful Eve, in a shocking turn, Scrooge has brought charges against the Spirits for causing him terrible afflictions and damages, wrongs he intends to right.  Defending the Spirits is Rothschild who makes a strong case on behalf of his otherworldly clients.  Scrooge, representing himself, proceeds to make table-turning arguments, bringing the trial to a heated and shocking climax.  Footlighters’ production is a twist on a beloved classic tale, and is the perfect tonic for a holiday whose spirit often comes and goes too quickly.

Stage Directed by Suki and Assistant Directed by Kathryn Wilde, this production of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge allows actors to shine, giving them room to explore time-honored characters and bring unique interpretations, as well as draw completely new characters (like Judge and Bailiff) who round out this fascinating tale.

The show begins with the Bailiff, a well-meaning soul played with humorously jumpy energy by George Webster.  Webster’s childlike outbursts add counterbalance to the imperious, blustery Judge, played expertly by Loren Bittner, a standout whose role proves key to the play’s overall message.

Rothschild, whose speeches for the Defense are impressively long, is played with noble outrage by David Richman.  Scrooge, embodied with a sort of irritated glee by Pete Rolston, begins as an impudent plaintiff, and then builds into a clever debater who turns the courtroom on its head and delivers thought-provoking perspectives which make this play deeper than expected.

Robert “Bob” Cratchit is deftly-drawn by Chris McBreen whose gentle humility and kindness bring warmth to the witness stand.  Marcy Hoffman is a joy in two roles: Sara Wainwright and the Translator, each character played with spot-on timing and comedic flair.   Marley is drawn with dead-pan hilarity by Norma Kider, delighting the audience with her agonizing gapes and moans. Another standout is Laura Cohn as Mrs. Dilber, who brings contagious mirth and frankness to the bawdy ‘pilfering’ role she plays in Scrooge’s life.

As for the three Spirits, only two grace the stage:  Past, played with absolute delight by Hazel J. Fletcher, and Future, portrayed with imposing and (dare I say it) adorable charm by Bryan CassidyFletcher doubles as a ‘channel’ for the witness stand, bringing in the ghosts of Fan (Scrooge’s beloved sister) and Belle (Scrooge’s ex-fiancée) with agility, warmth and skill.

The cast is rounded out by Mrs. Cratchit (JoAnn Goble) and the Carolers (Norm Cohn and Christopher Moran) who double as courtroom guests. They join a collection of cast members pre-show to sing classic melodies for arriving guests under the music direction of Zach Workman.

Zach Workman’s Light & Sound Design is featured in the light-strobing and fog effects which add drama to the Spirit entrances, while haunting reverb amplifies the Spirit voices.

Erin Keller Tiffany’s Set Design is simply-stated with a series of levels to add movement. The Judge’s bench is appropriately placed ‘on high’, with the witness stand to the left, and sturdy tables & benches to the right (Master Carpentry by Bruce Field.) The tan and terracotta paint on the walls is a bit flat and sparsely-adorned, with a single lantern and small portrait of Queen Victoria looking lonely on the bare walls. The clean set allows our focus to remain on the actors, however. Costumes by Denni Herbetko and Jaiden Herbetko are period-appropriate, colorful and realistically rumpled for the time.  Garb and makeup for Marley and the Spirits deserve special mention.  The show is Stage Managed by Miriam Heck, assisted by Khloe Prem.  It is produced by Kristin Dormuth with Technical Direction by Lee Longenberger.

The timeless character of ‘Ebenezer Scrooge’ has become part of the collective psyche.  An intriguing sequel to Dickens’ classic, The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge adds lighthearted humor to a serious message, and reveals an unexpected twist that will have audience members saying “Hmmm” long after the show ends.  What’s more, it could have us all being kinder to one another for more than just one day a year.

The play is performed in two Acts, with a 15-minute intermission.

Show dates: Dec, 1, 2, 8, 9, 15 & 16 at 8:00 PM; December 3* & 10 at 2:00 PM Warning: occasional strobe lights and fog machine are used during the show.

*SPECIAL NOTE:  After the matinee on Dec 3, the show’s cast will stroll to the Berwyn Train Station to sing carols at the tree lighting ceremony at 5:30pm. Click here for more info: Footlighters Carolers at Berwyn Tree Lighting

For more info on this run of The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,  contact:

Footlighters Theater
58 Main Avenue
Berwyn PA 19312
Phone: 610-296-9245
Directions: Google Maps Link
Website: http://www.footlighterstheater.com/