Charity, humility, selflessness, joy, and unity are the essential concepts that people are reminded of during the holiday season, and these concepts are found in Charles Dickens’s classic story “A Christmas Carol.” Michael Wilson’s adaptation of this story comes to the Hartford Stage and will show until December 29th, 2018. Particular aspects of the production could have been improved and altered, which will be discussed further. However, Director Rachel Alderman mainly creates a captivating and truly festive production.
Set during the 19th century, penny-pinching Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Preston) finds any chance to collect what is due to him, even during Christmas Eve. Usually he is alone during the holidays, but one early Christmas morning, Ebenezer is visited by an apparition who was once his long time friend and business partner, Jacob Marley (Noble Shropshire). Punished for the deeds he did in his lifetime, Jacob warns Ebenezer that he must change his selfish ways to avoid the same punishments Jacob is enduring.
Additionally, Jacob tells Ebenezer that three ghosts will visit his house during the early morning, and they will guide Ebenezer through his journey to becoming Scrooge. Throughout his life, Scrooge lost many loved ones, which made him bitter, and covered the joy and vibrant spirit he once had. Preston shows Scrooge’s conflict between his bitterness and his joyful spirit by appearing cheerful in those scenes that Scrooge is led to remember, but he would suddenly change his mood by scowling at those memories.
Noble Shropshire’s performance as Jacob Marley is outstanding. Suspended in the air, Shropshire’s blank stare and ghostly appearance is absolutely frightening and shows the suffering his character is experiencing. His soft, coarse voice and his jagged movements are haunting.
An improvement that could have been made is in the character of the Spirit of Christmas Present, who is portrayed by Alan Rust. The Spirit of Christmas Present lives in the now, splurging on whatever and whenever he can. Rust’s performance, as directed by Alderman, lacks the wholesome jolly attitude that the character has to have. A hardy, contagious laugh and a charming grin or smile would help portray the character’s attitude.
Alejo Viette’s costumes are absolutely stunning. The use of brightly colored clothing shows the festive and joyful nature of the holiday season, and the use of dark colors, such as what Ebenezer wears, shows the gloomy and grim spirit some characters have. However, one particular costume choice that should change is the costume of the Spirit of Christmas Future. In this production the character dresses in all black but also wears a top hat. Additionally, the character rides a large quadricycle. Instead, the character should wear a black-hooded cloak, as the character has been portrayed in other adaptations. The use of the cloak truly makes the character mysterious and chilling, which are attitudes many feel toward the future. Instead of riding a quadricycle, the Spirit of Christmas Future should also have been suspended in the air the same way Jacob Marley was suspended. As this creates the haunting appearance of Jacob Marley, so would it provide a haunting and sinister appearance for the spirit.
The set design by Tony Straiges is beautiful. The use of a bridge and the placement of various market stands provide a busy and interconnected community. The entrance of Jacob Marley is a particular and interesting design choice. Right in front of Ebenezer’s bed, the floor opens up, allowing Jacob and other ghosts to come out from the ground. This provides a frightening scene and a captivating performance.
Though some elements of this production could be improved, the overall production reminds individuals of the holiday spirit and the importance of community and giving. For more information and/or to purchase tickets, please go to www.hartfordstage.org or call 860-527-5151.