This year, if you see just one Dickens’ Yuletide story, let it be Chesapeake Shakespeare’s fine set-in-Baltimore A Christmas Carol. It has it all and then some: a nicely scary Jacob Marley’s Ghost (but not too scary for the little folk), lots of music, dancing, good acting, superior costumes, and a lightness and joy to the production.
Everyone is clearly having a good time here: Gregory Burgess as Ebenezer Scrooge is nicely cross and cowardly as he meets his Ghosts of Christmas; you do find yourself rooting for the old buzzard, and his switcheroo to new do-gooder is, if a bit speedy, heartfelt. Several cast members have nice turns: Tim R Bintram in particular as Mr Fezziwig is just as infectiously jolly as you could ask for. His long-winded speech at the party and his succeeding tipsy dance is a scene stealer.
As The Ghost of Christmas Past, Laura Rocklyn is an ethereal beauty, aided in no small part by the glorious tulle costume with tiny fairy lights sewn in the skirt and wig. James Jager as Bob Cratchit brings a human face to what is sometimes a cardboard downtrodden character, and Michael P Sullivan has an unexpectedly grand comedic turn in the small part of Chicken Man.
There’s plenty of music and dancing in this production, and not all of it dusty period stuff. Before the show even starts, actors and musicians in full costume are serenading us onstage. It’s quite a treat to see the Ghost of Christmas Present belt out ‘Feliz Navidad’ as you enter the theater.
And it isn’t only the actors having a fine time: costumes, which span several decades during Scrooge’s visits to Christmas Past, Present and Future, are just spot on. Costume Designer Kristina Lambdin delights in finding just the right patterns and materials to make historic pieces come alive, and some of the finer details, such as Chicken Man’s hat and Fezziwig’s suit, are enough to bring a smile to your face even if you know nothing about costume history of the 1800s.
The set is likewise detail oriented: the main setpiece is a well crafted two-story Baltimore rowhouse exterior by Technical Director Daniel O’Brien. Modeled on the three-quarters in the round original Globe Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare could cut corners on its few furnishings and props, but that isn’t the case here: there are fine Victorian pieces for a parlor scene and two really nice 1840s pigeonhole clerk’s desks in Scrooge’s office.
Though mention must be made that some of the tricks need to be better masked: it’s pretty nifty when Scrooge’s tombstone retracts into the mists- but not so nifty to see the stagehands visibly hauling it off; a bit of black cloth and that scene would have had more of the impact the director intended.
Other scenes were far more seamless: for example, the entrance of the Ghost of Jacob Marley was superb, complete with eerie sound effects and fog. And even though you know he’s coming- well, who doesn’t know the story by now- wow, such an entrance!
And speaking of history, you might want to brush up on local history: the adaptation by Artistic Director Ian Gallaner is peppered with references to Baltimore and its citizens- circa 1843, the year Dickens wrote his original story. It’s rather fun, even if we’re no longer quite sure what all the hubbub surrounding then-President Martin Van Buren was all about. The adaptation might be overlong for some, with its direct-from-Dickens dialogue: yes, it’s Dickens, but after 150+ years. Some slight cutting would speed things along. When a show is clearly designed to be a family event, coming in under two hours would be a plus.
A Christmas Carol
closes December 23, 2016
Details and tickets
Director Scott Alan Small had a fine time, too- so many little details are in this production, many of them easily missed. Look carefully at the Christmas dinner scene at Bob Cratchit’s: an extra biscuit is broken up into smaller and smaller pieces, to be shared by the whole family. No fireworks, just a sweet detail underplayed, and one which encapsulates the whole story.
As I have mentioned in previous reviews, if you haven’t been to Chesapeake Shakespeare, it’s well worth a trek to Baltimore just to step into their glorious new theatre. A modern interpretation of the original Globe Theatre, it has some of the most comfortable seating and the most relaxed atmosphere you could imagine, with the bar open throughout the show and not a bad seat in the house.
Ian Gallaner’s fine adaptation – A Christmas Carol – who says a Dickens Christmas has to be in London – has become a Chesapeake Shakespeare tradition. Come to Baltimore and find some holiday spirit this year!
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens . Adapted by Ian Gallaner . Directed by: Scott Alan Small . Cast: Tim R Bintrim as Mr Fezziwig,; Maykayla Baucom as Fanny Elizabeth, Belinda Cratchit; Mia Boydston as Martha Cratchit; Kevin Allen Brown as The Ghost of Christmas Present, The Ghost of Christmas yet To Come, Musician; Gregory Burgess as Scrooge; Keegan Cassady as George W Brown, Jam,es, Waterman, Baltimore Businessman); Tameika Chavis as Mrs Fezziwig, Older Belle; Javier del Pilar as Will the Fiddler, Topper, 2nd Gentleman; Campbell DiCarlo as Millie, Mary Cratcvhit; Kate Fornton as Marion, Mrs Dilbert; Dominic Gladden as Robert c Long, Young Scrooge, Old Joe; Maddie Hough as Matha Cratchit; James Jager as Bob Cratchit, Musician; Carolyn Kashner as Caroline, party Guest; Ryan McDonald as Schoolboy, Tiny Tim, Ignorance; Elana Michelle as Belle, Catherine, Baltimore Lady; Molly Moores as Mrs Cratchit, Party Guest; Jack Novak as Fred, George Wilkens, Musician; Zoe Prue as Millie, Mary Cratchit; Robby Rose as Mr Winthorp, Party Guest, Waterman, Baltimore Gentleman, Musician; Laura Rocklyn as The Ghost of Christmas Past, Dorothy; Andrew ‘Drew’ Sharpe as Andrew Cratchit, Schoolboy, A Boy; Max Sullivan as Schoolboy, Andrew Cratchit, A Boy; Michael P Sullivan as Jacob Marley, Party Guest, A Chicken man; Gareth Swing is Schoolboy, Tiny Tim, ignorance; Aura Lowery as Fanny, Elizabeth, Belinda Cratchit; Imani Yahshua Turner as Young Scrooge, Peter Cratchit . Music director: Scott Farquhar . Dance Choreographer: Nellie K Glover . Technical Director: Daniel O’Brien . Scenic Painter & Carpenter: Chester Stacey . Costume Design: Kristina Lambdin . Properties: Jess Rasp . Choreographer: Nellie K Glover . Stage Manager: Kristy Matero . Produced by Chesapeake Shakespeare Theatre . Reviewed by Jill Kyle-Keith.