More Effects Rejuvenate A Christmas Carol

By Karen Isaacs

Hartford Stage's production of A Christmas Carol -- a Ghost Story of Christmas has been a gift to Connecticut for 16 years, and a gift to the company's budget. Former Artistic Director Michael Wilson brought it with him from Texas when he came to Hartford and he left it behind for the new Artistic Director Djarko Tresnjak.

In Wilson's telling of this familiar story of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future and learns to care more about people and less about money, the emphasis is on the ghosts; both the three ghosts who visit Scrooge one Christmas Eve, the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, and also ghosts in general.

This year, as part of Hartford Stage's 50th anniversary, the production has been renewed and refreshed by Wilson, Tresnjak and Associate Artistic Director Maxwell Williams.

So what has changed? Costumes are being changed over a three year period; this year many minor characters have new costumes and the ghost of Christmas Present has a glorious new costume. Some additional cast members fill out the party and street scenes. The ghosts not only fly more but are aided by lighting effects.

Many of the cast members have returned; some have played their parts for years. Mostly local children play the children including Tiny Tim and students from the University of Hartford's Hartt School are the ghosts, guests at the parties and members of the streetscape.

Once again Bill Raymond is Scrooge. Raymond is both a gifted actor and a marvelous clown but over the years, his Scrooge had added more and more humorous schtick. It certainly lightens the mood but one has to question if it isn't subverting the intent of the piece. Scrooge never seems like a humanity hating, money loving miser but more like an eccentric uncle who mixes "bah humbug" with a wink and a giggle. When both adults and kids are laughing at Scrooge's antics early in the piece, you know something is amiss; the balance is off and that makes the reclamation of Scrooge both less dramatic and less meaningful.

But that is a quibble that some will disagree with. Young children may find the ghosts scary but children from 7 and up and their adults will thoroughly enjoy this magical production.

A Christmas Carol -- A Ghost Story of Christmas is at the Hartford Stage Company, 50 Church St, Hartford, through Dec. 28. For tickets and information, call the box office at 860-527-5151 or visit www.HartfordStage.org.

This review appears in Shore Publishing Community Newspapers December 18, 2013 and online at Zip06.com.


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