A Christmas Carol

Scrooge’s Story: Humorous and Heartwarming

Reviewed by Mary Alderson

Maybe you’re thinking “ho-hum, A Christmas Carol again.” I’m sure we have all seen it so many times – including all the movie versions and every theatres’ productions.  It’s a great story, but do we need to see it again?

You know the Shaw Festival’s A Christmas Carol is going to be different as soon as you take your seat at the Royal George Theatre.  The stage is one giant advent calendar, with large and small numbered doors scattered on it.  The scene on the advent calendar is a snow-covered view of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Queen Street, featuring the quaint and iconic clock tower. 

The Carollers – (l to r, back) Marla McLean, Kelly Wong, Jason Cadieux, Patty Jamieson, (l to r, front) Marie Mahabal and Kelsey Verzotti in A Christmas Carol. Photo by David Cooper.

The Shaw’s Artistic Director Tim Carroll adapted Charles Dickens’ classic story for the stage in 2017 and it has been back each year, with the exception of 2020 when the pandemic forced the cancellation.  So at the opening, the crowd seemed happy and appreciative to be in the theatre enjoying this Christmas classic with its unique interpretation.

Do I need to give a synopsis of the story?  Greedy old business owner named Scrooge rejects donating to the poor at Christmas and turns down his nephew’s kind invitation for dinner.  On Christmas eve, Scrooge is haunted by the ghost of his former partner, who warns him about three more apparitions that will disturb his sleep.  These ghosts point out Scrooge’s mistakes in the past, avarice in the present, and tell him what the future will bring if he carries on in his stingy ways.  Thus, Scrooge is a changed man, becoming kind and generous, literally overnight. 

Graeme Somerville as Scrooge with the Ghost of Christmas Future in A Christmas Carol. Photo by David Cooper.

Yes, it is the same old story, but some lovely carol singing, some inventive use of props and some endearing or frightening puppets liven it up.

First, a couple of doors on the advent calendar are put to good use.  Both are removed from the calendar.  One is held by an actor and used as the office door, which creaks whenever someone enters.  The other is held over her head by a crouching actor, thus creating Scrooge’s desk.  While this might not sound funny, the audience laughed uproariously each time it happened. 

Instead of a real-life Tiny Tim actor this production has a puppet Tim. Credit goes to Andrew Lawrie who plays Bob Cratchit for bringing Tiny Tim to life. 

Of course, the star of the show is Graeme Somerville as Ebenezer Scrooge.  He handles the nastiness and the transformation to kindness and elation perfectly. 

The ensemble is similarly brilliant in making this a happier, hopeful and joyful A Christmas Carol.  They also have beautiful voices for carolling.

If you need a pick-me-up to get you into the spirit of Christmas, see this production of A Christmas Carol. It is just what our Covid-weary world needs.  

A Christmas Carol continues at The Royal George Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake until December 23. For tickets, visit www.shawfest.com or call 1-800-511-SHAW (7429). 

Photos: 1. (l to r, back) Marla McLean, Kelly Wong, Jason Cadieux, Patty Jamieson, (l to r, front) Marie Mahabal and Kelsey Verzotti in A Christmas Carol. 2. Graeme Somerville as Scrooge.  Photos by David Cooper.

A Christmas Carol
By Charles Dickens
Adapted and originally directed by Tim Carroll
Directed by Molly Atkinson
Original music and musical direction by Paul Sportelli
Musical Direction by Ryan deSouza
Movement and puppetry by Alexis Milligan
Performed by Graeme Somerville as Scrooge and Jason Cadieux, Peter Fernandes, Patty Jamieson, Andrew Lawrie, Julie Lumsden, Marie Mahabal, Marla McLean, Kelsey Verzotti and Kelly Wong.
Royal George Theatre, Shaw Festival, Niagara-on-the-Lake
November 14 to December 23, 2021
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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