OPEN A HOLIDAY GIFT NOW: "A CHRISTMAS CAROL" AT HARTFORD STAGE

BONNIE GOLDBERG

Watch out for it's time for that miserly curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge to fly into town and the Hartford Stage is ready with a gaggle of ghosts to welcome and, perhaps, scare him straight. ‘Tis the season for Scrooge, a wonderfully persnickety Bill Raymond by night and a perfect penny pinching Buzz Roddy at school performances, to learn a touching lesson in the true meaning of Christmas and how we should treat our fellow man.

Until Sunday, December 27, the frighteningly prophetic words of Scrooge's long dead business partner Jacob Marley (Noble Shropshire) ring clear and loud: Scrooge must change his uncharitable ways or he will suffer the same horrible fate as Marley. To prove his point and make his case, Marley sends to Scrooge a trio of ghostly apparitions starting after midnight on Christmas Eve.

Each ghost, from the past (Johanna Morrison), the present (Alan Rust) and the time yet to come (Himself) take Scrooge by the hand and revisit his history. Through these encounters to former times, Scrooge is encouraged to discover why he is how he is and the power he has to reform. Can he open his closed up heart to let in love and understanding? Will "bah humbug" continue to be his response to all things Christmasy? Can the ghosts scare Scrooge into redemption?

Visitations to his nephew Fred (Terrell Donnell Sledge), his early school and work days, his clerk Bob Cratchit (Robert Hannon Davis) and his young crippled son Tiny Tim (Nora Girard or Max McGowan) will hopefully make a transformation just in time for Christmas Day. As apparitions fly through the skies and chains rattle and clang, as Scrooge's faithful housekeeper Mrs. Dilber (Noble Shropshire) brings him his daily bowl of barley, you will be caught up in the theatrical magic that this Charles Dickens' tale of "A Christmas Carol" traditionally brings to the whole family. Every year for the past 18 years, the Hartford Stage has presented this wonderful gift to the community, and it seems to get more glorious and heartfelt every time.

For tickets ($25-85), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860- 527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org/christmas-carol. Performances are Wednesday to Saturday at 7:30 p.m. with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Get a lesson in humanity and humility, by looking no further than the haunting hosts who are ready to lead you on a ghostly holiday adventure. Hang on to Scrooge's nightshirt for a wonderfully bumpy and rewarding ride.

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