A Christmas Carol – 2017

The Sights and Sounds of Christmas Past   

A miserable, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is on stage at London’s Grand Theatre for the Christmas season.  Benedict Campbell’s portrayal of Scrooge is perfection, right from his first cantankerous moment, through to his redemption, and then his joy in finding the spirit of Christmas. By his own admission, he becomes “merry as a school boy and giddy as a drunken man”.

But Scrooge is just part of this wonderful production of A Christmas Carol.  The entire performance is a delight for the eyes and ears.

The entire Grand stage is in use:  we see the Grand’s 1901 brick wall at the back of the large stage.  There are no side curtains, so the stage goes right to the walls, where occasionally we can see actors awaiting their cue.  The enormous space is filled with various items as the show progresses:  a cemetery, snowdrifts, huge icicles looking like prison bars, or 1834 streets with vendors and carts.

The wide open space is reduced for Scrooge’s bedroom when the requisite curtained four-poster bed appears.  Especially fascinating is the way the visiting ghosts walk right through his bedroom walls.  Fezziwig’s brewery is very realistic as he hosts a rollicking Christmas party when the ghost takes us to the past.

But the most glorious sight is the huge ice-covered rink with all the characters in their 1800’s styles, gliding about on their skates – well, roller blades, to be precise.  Snowflakes fall from the sky throughout.

The sounds are wonderful, too.  Favourite Christmas carols are sprinkled like snowflakes into the plot, and the cast members sing them beautifully.

Credit goes to Dennis Garnhum for his vision of this favourite play, both as the adapter and director.  His characters are very relatable. As well, their vocabulary, much of it from the original Dickens, is tweaked just slightly for a 21st century audience.

Along with Campbell’s excellent depiction of Scrooge, Sean Arbuckle gives us a great Bob Cratchit.  He pulls our heartstrings at Tiny Tim’s grave when the spirit escorts us to the future.  Aiden DeSalaiz is a charming nephew Fred, and Ian Deakin is an energetic Fezziwig.

The three spirits are truly enchanting in their lighted costumes, each one unique.  Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, arrives on a huge chandelier.  Blythe Wilson, as the Ghost of Christmas Present, is amazing as she and her two children (Want and Ignorance) take Scrooge on a journey to see what happens behind his back.  We see how short-lived the present is, as Wilson’s spirit ages and withers.  David Michael Moote is frightening as the skeletal Ghost of Christmas Future, appearing very tall and menacing while walking on hidden stilts.

The sights and sounds of A Christmas Carol are outstanding.  Now, if only they could add the smell of gingerbread baking or turkey roasting.

A Christmas Carol continues at the Grand Theatre, London until December 30.  Tickets are available at the Grand box office at 672-8800 or 1-800-265-1593 or visit www.grandtheatre.com.

Photo: Company in the Grand Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. Photo by Claus Andersen.

A Christmas Carol – 2017
By Charles Dickens
Adapted & Directed by Dennis Garnhum
Performed by Benedict Campbell, Sean Arbuckle, Ian Deakin, Aidan DeSalaiz, Brendan McMurtry-Howlett, Blythe Wilson, David Michael Moote, et al
Grand Theatre, London
November 28 to December 30, 2017
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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