A Christmas Carol
by Stu Brown
Hartford Stage’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, is a wholly satisfying, slightly busy, celebration. The holiday tradition is a feast of sight and sound with wondrous special effects, flying and dancing ghosts, sumptuous costumes and, of course, a heart-warming tale of atonement and rebirth.
The large cast, augmented by undergraduates from The Hartt School as well as a gaggle of young children, provides a wondrous and magical spectacle that can be enjoyed by all ages. One reason the show is so rewarding is how in sync the creative team is in fostering a totally connected vision. Scenic Designer, Tony Straiges; Lighting Designer, Robert Wierzel; and Sound Designer, John Gromada (who also provides original incidental music) have fabricated a unique pageant with the sum greater then each part, allowing each component to build upon the other. Each of their contributions would be diminished without the other.
The cast is uniformly first-rate led by an irascible Bill Raymond as Ebenezer Scrooge. Raymond knows the role well as he has played it hundreds of times. As well-versed as he is, occasionally he becomes somewhat cloying when he should remain more Bah! Humbug! -ish. Robert Hannon Davis is a nice counterbalance as the humble and dignified Bob Cratchit. Noble Shropshire almost steals the show as both Scrooge’s housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, and the ghostly Jacob Marley.
Director Maxwell Williams delivers the frights as well as setting an atmospheric tone of Victorian England. There are many flourishes he incorporates into the production that heighten the show’s dramatic and comedic sweep. He is equally adept at staging scenes with the sizeable cast or when there are just a few actors on stage. Sometimes the production felt rather cluttered and too bustling. The more poignant, less embellished parts of the show, such as the Cratchit family at home, truly grasped the essence of what A Christmas Carol is all about.
A Christmas Carol, a seasonal stalwart, updated and joyous, playing at Hartford Stage through December 28th.