The 2011 DTC Christmas Carol showcases a fresh look at the classic story, as a majority of the actors will be playing their iconic roles for the very first time. Easily one of the best shows to see this month! Click thru for pics and my review of this year’s rendition of the classic Charles Dickens story.
Everyone can easily recognize that Ebenezer Scrooge is the main figure in Charles Dickens story, but even Dickens made a point that the audience/reader needs to realize Jacob Marley (played by Jonathan Brooks) has been dead for quite sometime. The DTC’s 2011 rendition highlights this with the haunting opening sequence in which we see the “death” of Marley – above photo! Jonathan Brooks plays the former partner of Scrooge with a tragically sorrow-filled performance that really works well. In the end though its still Ebenezer’s show and veteran actor Kurt Rhoads shines brightly in this emotional roll-coaster role as Scrooge! The performance is even more brilliant when you realize this is the first time Kurt has played Scrooge and its ironically his sense of comedic timing that really stands out.
Even in the most scary sequences (like the introduction of the Ghost of Christmas Past – lovely Abbey Siegworth radiates as the “wild” ghost) Kurt’s perfectly timed “jokes” remind us this play is much more then just an old man being SCARED into loving Christmas. The Dickens story is about the spirit behind the holiday, its about the way families can come together through the holiday meal and time together. Its this element that is highlighted by the DTC’s “moving” stage. The only elements of the play that are constant are the back wall filled with clocks (to signify the time of the Ghosts arrivals but also that Scrooge still has time to change). The stage rotates and circles throughout the entire play and adds a very unique feel to some scenes.
Another element that stands out (from the very opening of the play) is the wonderful use of smoke. Not only does it create a creepy feel, that isn’t as scary to the younger audience members, (the loud sounds throughout the play are much scarier to the the kiddos that were in attendance on opening night) but the smoke also allows for some pretty massive set changes. Throughout the play we see the streets of London, Ebenezer’s (formally Marley’s) massive home, The Cratchit’s small abode, Scrooge’s nephew’s home, and the places in Ebenezer’s past like his old boarding school. The smoke allows for these “time” and set changes to occur seamless.
The figures of the three ghosts become larger, both in importance to Scrooge’s ultimate change but also in sheer size. The Ghost of Christmas Future for instance is played by Alex Ross who wears stilts and a massive headdress that makes him at least 8 foot plus. The height factor really amps up the fear factor as well, as the Ghost of Xmas Future is not only a massive and daunting figure but his 6 foot staff/pen is purely dangerous looking. The pen element is a nice touch to the play, from the post show Q & A we found out that Director Joel Ferrell’s wanted to add something unique to the character. His being able to “write” and “rewrite” the “books” if you will! Its a nice touch and just another of the small little instances in which this play distinguishes itself from other performances.
In the end though A good Charles Dickens story is all about the kiddos. Whether we’re hoping that adorable Oliver Twist will succeed or in the case of this play that lil’ Tiny Tim will get the treatment he needs to live. A fun and well acted group of child actors really shined in their limited speaking roles, they spent a lot more time in the “dance” and movement sequences of the play. But their is no greater emotional moment then when we see a world without Tiny Tim. Easily the toughest parts of any Christmas Carol are whether the kids roles are believable or not. Kuran Patel plays both Tiny Tim and a young Ebenezer amazingly well. Though Kuran doesn’t have to say much more then the classic, “God Bless Us, Every One!”, his scenes are wonderful, especially when he is surprised by his sister Fan (Wendy Blackburn – a SMU Meadows Student plays Fan and Martha Cratchit – thus always Kuran’s older sis!). Next to the emotional moment of seeing a crutch without Tiny Tim attached is the moment when Fan picks up a young Ebenezer to take finally take him home from boarding school. Its not so much the two actors hugging, but the amazing job Kurt Rhodes does in showing the audience he finally remembers his loving sister Fan. The love of Fan is something that translates beautifully into the one of the final scenes of the play (won’t spoil it for ya – but it involves Ebenezer being nice to a young girl). Kurt’s performance in the scenes with the Ghost of Xmas Past (Abbey) are truly heart wrenching and done with such little effort. A knowing glance to the audience here and a longing stare at his sister Fan, perfectly hit the right emotional key. I teared up myself when Ebenezer finally says “that’s Fan”. Most plays treat this sequence as a throw-a-way line and concentrate on the loss of Ebenezer’s only true “love”, Belle (played by Vanessa Gibens). Kurt does a great job of playing the Belle scenes greatly (and has some heart-stopping moments like when he “leaves” belle), but its the scene of him watching Fan pick him up from boarding school that truly shows the real heart behind the old mean man! Its also the only time in the play we are given a bit of sympathy to Ebenezer, as a young Ebenezer asks Fan, “But what about Father”. This line to me is the best of the entire DTC play. It is hard to ask a young actor to have perfect pitch, timing and then on top of that hit a line that invokes so much historical significance as that line. But Kuran says it perfectly, with a tinge of “horror” behind the word Father! We finally see that Ebenezer is human, he is vulnerable. Hats off to DTC for making this scene so well played because it is usually “forgotten” in other performances of this story. A must see for all ages (though there are some loud sounds in the play to watch out for young children).
Also a special shout out to the guy that IS the “moving bed”. Keep an eye on the bed throughout the entire play because its being “moved” by one guy and its amazing to see how much he does, especially when it “violently circles”. WOW is all I can say!
For more info on the play please visit the Dallas Theater Center website, here.