Theater Review: A Christmas Carol
© THE FLASH LIST | December 2, 2011
Photos by Karen Almond
Dallas Theater Center at the Kalita Humphreys Theater
By Charles Dickens,
Adapted for stage b y Richard Hellesen
Original music, with lyrics written or adapted
from traditional sources by David de Berry
Directed by Joel Ferrell
Christmas is a magic ring, it is stated, if it binds us all together. And in this year’s version of Dallas Theater Center’s annual production of the Charles Dickens classic holiday tale, several factors from opposite ends of the spectrum are wonderfully bound together in a 1 plus 1 equals “too cute” equation.
Set in London, England in 1843 and dubbed “A Ghost Story of Christmas,” traditional elements of festive holiday celebration featuring the cast’s cheerful singing and lively dancing are mixed with eerie apparitions, ominous clock chimes, sudden flashes of light, and startling booms that caused some audience members to jump in their seats. Ten large scenic prop pieces including a canopy bed and remote controlled chair twirled around the large, moving, turntable stage seemingly on their own; candles came ‘ablaze’ with the mere wave of a lighter wand; and enough dry ice fog, smoke, and even snowfall floated through the air to douse the “bah, humbug” right out of the harshest of yuletide resisters.
Kurt Rhoads (who returns to DTC this season after starring as King Henry in Henry IV) plays a very gruff, cantankerous, cold-hearted, (and just plain ol’ MEAN) Ebenezer Scrooge; and we loved every minute of his smooth transformation from the scraggily haired, furrowed-browed, book-throwing, stingy oppressor to the enlightened, sincerely generous giver who became “light as a feather” and “happy as an angel.”
Jonathan Brooks (a company member at the Undermain Theater) plays the chained and tethered Ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s deceased business partner who appears in the night to give warning about the consequences of a “life of opportunities misused.” In great contrast, Brooks also cracked up the audience in his secondary role as Topper, the drunken, somewhat acrobatic, blindfolded, Christmas party kissing bandit.
David Ryan Smith (who was recently fierce as the Lion in The Wiz) walked with natural ease on some very high platform shoes as the “jolly giant" Ghost of Christmas Present, and did a fantastic job of narrating/storytelling with that clear, commanding voice of his. On a much smaller scale, the show’s children (often coming and going via the audience aisles) were all of course adorable, but second grader Kuran Patel (who played the child Ebenezer as well as Tiny Tim) was absolutely puh-recious!
In addition to DTC resident actors Abbey Siegworth (Ghost of Christmas Past), Lee Trull (Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s underpaid clerk), and Steven Michael Walters (Fred, Scrooge’s nephew) who rounded out the cast with their colorful individual styles, we were particularly struck by SMU Meadows School of the Arts graduate student Vanessa Gibens who delivered the touching role of Belle, Ebenezer’s former fiancée, in an impressively sweet, strong, and resolute manner. Offering a healthy corresponding dose of comic relief, the silly, jolly Fezziwig couple was played by Brian Gonzales (who is joined in this production by his wife Ashley Puckett Gonzales who plays Fred’s wife) and Emily Gray (who trained at Drama Studio London and provided dialect coaching for the variety of English accents in this play - think Eliza Doolittle beginning to end).
This story not only offers alternating views between poverty and prosperity, modest to luxury lifestyles, and a stark contrast between the lower and upper class families, but theatergoers are also given an opportunity to respond. In a continued partnership with the North Texas Food Bank, Dallas Theater Center is providing a location for patrons to donate non perishable food items, and members of the cast will also collect monetary donations after every performance. There was no pressure at all; but as quoted by actor Lee Trull on our way out (regarding his pint-sized assistant), “Cute kid with a bucket here!”
A Christmas Carol runs through Saturday, December 24, 2011 at the Kalita Humphreys Theater. As always, stick around after the play for a free, brief, lively post-show conversation with a cast member where you can hear and share insights.
For more information and tickets, see the following websites; and may "God bless us, every one!"