Everyone knows that you can’t get enough of Ebenezer Scrooge, that delightfully misanthropic man of “Bah Humbug” fame. Especially around the holidays. Whether it’s in Charles Dickens’ Victorian age – or in today’s modern era – A CHRISTMAS CAROL has become the go-to favorite of every seeker of holiday cheer.
Dickens may have been inspired by his Victorian visits to the Field Lane Ragged School – where skeletal illiterate street kids got their very limited education – but, even in the affluent, enlightened twenty-first century, the ravages of poverty and tunnel vision strike a note in all of us. What better way to celebrate the hope that charity and change can happen than by watching Scrooge’s metamorphosis from a stingy, grumpy miser into a man overflowing with the milk of human kindness. It took Dickens less than two months to pen A CHRISTMAS CAROL, and yet the classic remains the perfect holiday treat over a hundred years later.
The Glendale Centre Theatre is presenting its fifty-third production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL this year. Again, we meet the miserly Scrooge (Richard Malmos), who unexpectedly gets a visit from his former and deceased partner in their money lending business, Jacob Marley (Rick Steele). Jacob has come with a special message for Scrooge. Dragging chains and money boxes behind him, he alerts Scrooge to his upcoming visits from three very special spirits.
With the shake of a gold coin and some wafting mist, Christmas Past (Samantha Labrecque) materializes in Scrooge’s bedroom. The past reveals Scrooge as a lonely child who grew up to find riches beyond measure when surrounded by his kindly boss, Mr. Fezziwig, a jolly, charitable man who loved the holidays, and the love of his life, Belle (Rebecca Thomas). Life was just about perfect – and then Scrooge decides that money is more important than anything else. Suddenly, he finds himself alone. Next visited by Christmas Present (Shea Taylor), Scrooge gets the chance to see the home life of his gentle clerk, Bob Cratchit (Greg Hardash), who has an abundance of family and that special love for his crippled son, Tiny Tim. He also has the chance to see just how benevolent his nephew Fred (Nick Mizrahi) can be as he toasts the absent Scrooge with his friends. Scrooge is beginning to sense a pattern and just might be considering a change in his life. And then he meets Christmas Future (Travis Dietlein), who shows him his death, mourned by none in a gloomy, untended grave. And what of Tiny Tim? Scrooge’s fears are realized as he watches the Cratchit family sitting in mourning for the little fellow, his empty crutches standing nearby.
What better motivation for change? We all know how this ends – but it’s still fun to see Scrooge become a new man, a man who loses no opportunity to shout his new-found love for everyone and everything about Christmas. Directed by adapter James Betteridge, A CHRISTMAS CAROL has undergone some minor changes since last year – but still remains the harbinger of the true spirit of Christmas. As always, the production team has done a bang-up job of bringing the Victorian to the Millennials. And, as always, the production is filled with song and dance. Kudos to musical director Hisato Masuyana and choreographer Paul Reid for giving the audience a chance to enjoy all those great holiday songs that surface every year around this time. Let’s not forget those spectacular costumes by Angela Manke (wigs by Carter Thomas) and all those paintings around the theater that make the ambience so…Christmassy.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs through December 24, 2018, with performances at 8 p.m. on week nights, at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Sundays – with a special Christmas eve show at 2 p.m. The Glendale Centre Theatre is located at 324 North Orange Street, Glendale, CA 91203. Tickets range from $28 to $38. For information and reservations, call 818-244-8481 or go online.