A CHRISTMAS CAROL at A.C.T. a smash hit

(L) James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge (Above) Omoze Idehenre as the Ghost of Christmas Present confronts Scrooge.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens. Adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh. Music by Karl Lundeberg. Choreography by Val Caniparoli. Directed by Domenique Lozano based on the original direction by Carey Perloff. Designed by John Arnone (scenic designer), Beaver Bauer (costume designer), Nancy Schertler (lighting designer), Jake Rodriguez (sound designer), Robert Rutt (musical director). American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94108. 415.749.2228 or www.act-sf.org.

December 1 – 24, 2011

For the past 35 years A.C.T. has traditionally rolled out a production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The original shows were reminiscent of the black and white movie featuring Alistair Simms. Seven years ago, artistic director Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh re-imagined the classic story, adding music by Karl Lundberg and choreography by Val Caniparoli of the San Francisco ballet. Together with the brilliant input of John Arnone’s scenic design, Beaver Bauer’s costumes, Nancy Schertler’s lighting and Jake Rodriguez’s sound design the total package is a charming, touching, heart-warming perfect evening for the Holiday Season that received a spontaneous standing ovation. If you walk one block to Union Square you can add further awe to trip down town to view the magnificently decorated Christams tree while cheering the skaters on the ice rink.

A large part of that ovation was generated by Bay Area favorite James Carpenter as Ebenezer Scrooge. His transition from the initial “Bah, Humbug” personae to the generous philanthropist converted by his dealings with the ghosts who take him on an journey of enlightenment, strikes a real cord because he is the consummate actor who becomes the character his is playing. He breathes humanity into the role and has the great support of a multi-generational cast.

That cast includes 25 member of the A.C.T. Young Conservatory, the entire third-year class of the Master of Fine Arts Program, the core acting company and the addition of local luminaries. The children are charming performing very professionally and occasionally, very occasionally up-staging the adults.

Amongst those adults is a dominating Jack Willis, decked out in gray with real chains clanking and dangling from his body as he rises from the depths of the stage to admonish Scrooge about what is to happen. The impending happenings, as we all know, will be the visit of the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The visits are extremely individualistic with Ghost of Christmas Past a charming young man (Ben Kahre) entering the stage on a swing to introduce Scrooge to himself and acquaintances as youths.

The Ghost of Christmas Present appears on a second story balcony, dressed in a costume resembling a fully decorated Christmas tree, is played with an authoritarian flourish by Omoze Idehenre and is obviously the audience favorite. She has no competition from the Ghost of Christmas Future that is a frightening three story puppet decked in black and gray flowing robes, without a face with an echo-chamber voice that believably makes Scrooge (pardon the pun) a believer.

Whereas the scene of Christmas Future, complete with grave stones and wicked men is performed in black, the remainder of the show is a marvel of color and festivity with many of the props gliding on wheels moving effortlessly on and off stage. The intricate technical aspects of the scenery add awe and wonderment without interfering with the actors lines and are an adjuvant to the story line.

It is unfair to single out individual performers since they all deserve accolades . . . even the children dressed as vegetables (Spanish Onions, Turkish Figs and French Plums) doing a take-off on The Nutcracker. One cannot neglect scene stealer Sharon Lockwood as Scrooge’s maid Mrs. Dilber and as the vivacious Mrs. Fezziwig. However, Jarion Monroe in a flaming henna wig keeps pace and garners more laughs as the generous Mr. Fezziwig. Delia MacDougall and Tony Sinclair are captivating as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit with Tiny Tim often carried on their shoulders. Yes, the Christmas Turkey ( not a goose) purchased by the repentant Scrooge is larger than Tiny Tim.

The entire production is larger than life yet has that personal touch to bring a tear to your eyes while you stand and applaud.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

Courtesy of www.theatreworldinternetmagazine.com