Reviews: A Christmas Carol (x2)

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

A Christmas Carol

Ross Petty Productions

Written by Matt Murray and Jeremy Diamond. Directed and choreographed by Tracey Flye. Set by Cory Sincennes. Costumes by Dana Osborne. Lighting by Kimberly Purtell. Sound by Peter McBoyle. At the Elgin Theatre. Runs until December 31.

This year the Ross Petty Productions crew—known for their wacky panto-type shows—gets its fingerless-mitts into Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and turns it upside down. Ebenezer Scrooge (Cyrus Lane) is a greedy-guts curmudgeon who wants to own Christmas. He will do it by enticing all children to buy his video game they MUST HAVE!!! THEY MUST! Will his dastardly ways prevail? Not if his honourable employee Bob Cratchit (Eddie Glen) and the makeup-challenged, eclectically dressed Plumbum (Dan Chameroy)—a sassy vision in neon colours and spandex—have anything to do with it.

Interestingly, Charles Dickens’ name is nowhere to be seen on the title page of the program, not even as the writer of the original story. The honours go to Matt Murray and Jeremy Diamond, and it is some of the best for this production in years. The script is full of silly humour and physical business that will appeal to children, along with quips, in-jokes, and topical humour that will appeal to adults. For example, the ghost of Jacob Marley (David Lopez) looks and sounds like Bob Marley.

Director/choreographer Tracey Flye keeps the pace fast and furious. She has envisioned a world of dazzling colour and eye-popping animation on the back wall. Of course the show rests on Scrooge, and Lane plays him with wonderful finesse. He knows how to play an audience, to engage with them and taunt them. The audience boos him on cue and he responds with what seem to be adlibs, and they are always hilarious.

Chameroy is a masterful actor and plays Plumbum with a world weariness and exasperation at what she has to contend with. When Lane and Chameroy go head-to-head it’s bend-over funny.

A Christmas Carol is billed as “the Family Musical with a Scrooge Loose.” It’s perfect holiday fare for kids and their parents.

For tickets or more information, click here.

A Christmas Carol

Grand Theatre

Written by Charles Dickens in an adaptation and directed by Dennis Garnhum. Choreography by Kerry Gage. Set by Allan Stichbury. Costumes by Kelly Wolf. Lighting by Bonnie Beecher. Videography by Jamie Nesbitt. Composed by Jeremy Spencer. Sound by Jim Neil. At the Grand Theatre (London, Ont.). Runs until December 31.

Dennis Garnhum certainly knows how to make an entrance. He has chosen A Christmas Carol as his first show to direct as the new artistic director of the Grand Theatre in his hometown of London, Ontario.

Garnhum has pulled out all the stops and packed this production with all the theatrical bells and whistles imaginable. Snow falls from the flies to the stage; large icicles descend from above; the ghosts wear costumes that have built-in lights, which illuminates them in an eerie fashion; and there is an ice-skating party on the frozen Thames for good measure. I did look high and low on that stage for the kitchen sink but couldn’t find it, so I guess Garnhum kept it out.

The voice of Christopher Newton, a Canadian theatre icon, rings out in the darkness at the top of the show, reciting the first page of Dickens’ short story of how Jacob Marley is dead. It is a rather dramatic beginning to get us prepared for what comes next. Rather than a dinner party, Garnhum has envisioned a skating party, which is well set up and adds a nice touch of frivolity next to Scrooge’s curmudgeonliness.

As Scrooge, Benedict Campbell is wonderfully morose, sullen, and quietly cynical about all the holiday cheer going on. This is such a beautifully modulated, tempered performance. There is nothing forced about Scrooge’s disliking of the season or the people who want to enjoy it. It makes his transformation all the more profound.

I have a few quibbles. Jacob Marley appears along with several ghoulish apparitions from the grave. I don’t think Marley needs any help here. The point is that he appears alone to Scrooge to terrify the man enough to change. The ghouls are a distraction. Garnhum also has them play tricks on Scrooge and his housekeeper by moving trays of food from a table to a bed. Again, unnecessary and a bit of overkill.

But, as I say, quibbles. This production is joyful and true to the spirit of Dickens’ story, full of generosity, openheartedness, and cheer.

For tickets or more information, click here.


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Written By

Lynn is the former theatre critic for Intermission, and currently writes reviews on her blog The Slotkin Letter. She also does theatre reviews, interviews, and commentary for CIUT Friday Morning (89.5 FM). She was a theatre reviewer for CBC's Here and Now for ten years. On average, she sees 280 shows a year.