Opening to a picturesque scene, the likes of which traditional Christmas cards are made, complete with snow gently falling, Nebraska Theater Caravan, began its 3 day limited run of "A Christmas Carol" at the Palace Theater last night to a crowd filled with families beginning their holiday celebrations together.
A Columbus tradition for more than 30 years, the stage adaptation by Charles Jones of Charles Dickens' classic tale has a cast of 24, and the ensemble brings to life the iconic tale through timeless classics like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman", "The Holly and the Ivy", and "Greensleeves", as well as some lesser known, but authentic, beautiful songs such as the English carol, "Dancing Day", and a German originated "Susanni". The Broadway-style scenery, designed by James Othuse is exquisite, with detailed and ornate set pieces like Scrooge's fireplace, and the Victorian storefronts of London, which immediately transport the audience to a time period where life was much harder, but in many ways, much simpler than our current time. The costumes, created by Georgiann Regan and Lynne Ridge are brilliant, creating characters appearing to have just stepped out of a Currier and Ives painting- ladies in gorgeous hoop skirted gowns, and top hat adorned gentlemen.
The ensemble cast, as a whole is fabulously complementary of each other. Vocally, all are lovely, particularly on classics such as, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and "Here We Come A-Wassailing", which have near flawless harmonizing. The choreography by Joanne Cady, is spirited and brought to life in true period fashion, particularly during the party scenes at Fezziwig's Warehouse and at Fred and Millie's home where dancing is the heart of the celebrations. The Beggar, played by Jimmy Wencel, dances through several scenes in an Oliver-style fashion that adds energy and light-heartedness as well.
The obvious star of the show is Paul T. Kerr, who in his third tour with the company in this role, is the embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge, in all of his miserly, bitter, and miserable glory. Kerr creates a larger-than-life Scrooge that is thoroughly entertaining to watch. His giddiness at the end of the tale contrasts so nicely with the Scrooge he creates in the first act, that you can't help but feel that old Scrooge has truly reformed his ways and become a kinder, gentler soul for good. Dan Chevalier as Bob Crachit is equally delightful, though his role in the tale is rather understated in this version. He exudes kindness and joy, despite suffering under Mr. Scrooge's oppressive working conditions and poor pay, and his loving family is also well-played by Dana Colagiovanni as Mrs. Crachit, Sara Croninger as Martha Crachit, Logan Vamosi as Peter Crachit, Emma Creamer as Belinda Crachit, and Quincy Ellefson as Frances Crachit, Ryan Laughlin as Tiny Tim could not be any cuter, and still has that endearing childlike tone to his voice without being sickeningly sweet. He however, appears rather energetic and robust, so it is a bit of a stretch to think of him as near death, but is darling none-the-less. Other notables are a wonderfully bubbly and joyful Jon McDonald as Fezziwig, and an understated, but unfailingly kind version of Scrooge's nephew Fred, played by Russell Matthews. Jessica Bradish as The Ghost of Christmas Past is amusingly light-hearted and enjoyable to watch, as is the overindulgent Ghost of Christmas Present played by Andrew Tebo.
The Nebraska Theater Caravan delivers a completely delightful adaptation of, "A Christmas Carol", which could easily become one of your family's favorite holiday traditions. If you haven't been to the show, there's still time to catch it at the Palace Theater, 34 West Broad Street, Columbus, 43215, on Saturday, November 24th at 2pm and 7:30pm, and Sunday, November 25th at 2pm and 7:30pm. Call the CAPA ticket Office at 614-469-0939 for ticket information.
Photo courtesy Nebraska Theater Caravan.