Have a Haunting Good Christmas in Hartford


BONNIE GOLDBERG

If Christmas has an enemy, someone who hates everything from mistletoe to merriment, gifts to glee, charitable causes to cheer, the mean-spirited personage of one Ebenezer Scrooge would be the poster child. Some might nominate the lean and green Grinch but, in a contest, Scrooge would win mittens down.

How a trio of ghosts could appear and disappear, soar and fly, dance and cavort, and cause this most cantankerous of cusses to reevaluate his actions is at the heart of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale of hauntings: "A Christmas Carol." Once again Hartford Stage is bringing back the incomparable Bill Raymond to inhabit the character of one E. Scrooge and bring him miserly and merrily to life. Until Sunday, December 28, the whole family is invited to root for the "Bah Humbug" King to change his spots and reform. Will it happen? Come and find out for yourself.

In Victorian London, it's Christmas Eve and for Mr. Scrooge it's business as usual. He even begrudges his faithful employee Bob Cratchit (Robert Hannon Davis) a day off, with pay no less. If Scrooge had his way, the holiday would not be celebrated for as much as a minute. Counting his money is all that matters to this skinflint of a man who has no room in his heart for charitable thoughts, orphans or widows. If he could dictate it, they would all go live in the poor house.

Imagine his surprise when his long dead partner in business, Jacob Marley (Noble Shropshire) comes to visit him on that very night with a dire warning: mend your ways or you will suffer my fate of grief and chains and regret. While Scrooge laughs off his cautions, he soon finds himself haunted by three ghosts. The Spirit of Christmas Past (Johanna Morrison), the Spirit of Christmas Present (Alan Rust) and the Spirit of Christmas Future (Death) warn Scrooge to change his ways, to reform, so he doesn't suffer the same destiny as Marley.

How Scrooge responds is at the tender heart of the story, when he has the chance to change, to value his sister's son Fred (Curtis Billings), to treat his tenants (Johanna Morrison, Alan Rust and Michael Preston) with kindness, to help his clerk Bob Cratchit's son Tiny Tim (Alexander Dante Butler or Silvan Friedman) with healing benevolence and to value his faithful housekeeper Mrs Dilber (Noble Shropshire).

Director Maxwell Williams keeps the story as fresh and delightfully delicious as a fattened turkey stuffed with goodness. This year, the seventeenth anniversary of the production originally adapted and directed by Michael Wilson, there are more surprises and special effects than ever before.

Call for tickets ($25-85, students $25-65), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday to Friday at 7:30 p.m., Saturday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. and Sunday 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.,

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