12/24/2019 A CHRISTMAS CAROL Alliance Theatre
AS IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN
“Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that.”
When the reading public first saw these words on 17 December 1843, there was little indication that the story that followed would evolve into a Holiday Icon. Greeted with near-universal acclaim, Charles Dickens little “Ghost Story of Christmas,” written in five “staves,” soon outsold all his longer works, giving Mr. Dickens a second career as a performer. Always a lover of amateur theatrics, he performed A Christmas Carol hundreds of times throughout the rest of his life.
Some have even accused the story of “setting the stage” and popularizing many of our modern Christmas traditions and rituals. Others have blamed it for the increasing secularization of the holiday. Whatever the truth, it remains a favorite of mine and a favorite of theatres everywhere. Thousands of stage (and film) adaptations exist, and many theatres create their own, tailoring the story to the particular talents of each group.
I’ve been reviewing multiple Carols for years now. I didn’t warm to the Alliance’s over-the-top, multi-ethnic version at first, but now, I look forward to it every year. I really like this show! It is a marvellously engaging and clever production, a testament to both the Alliance Stagecraft and ensemble work, and I thoroughly recommend it. This is its first year on the Alliance’s
“upgraded” Coca-Cola stage, and there are a few adjustments – most noticeable being the absence of the detritus-filled “wings”” on either side of the proscenium, and the “emerge from the floor” entrance of Christmas Past, but, truth to tell, those were “window dressing” and the show is still an over-the-top extravaganza, filled with glorious acting, glorious singing, and glorious ensemble work. I’ve made it a holiday tradition to usher for the Christmas Eve matinee, and this year’s performance was as bright and lively as ever, as I imagine the first preview was, as I know every year’s staging will be.
It was, as it has ever been, a real holiday treat, expanding the original story a bit (we see how Scrooge and Marley meet, we see the fates of Fezziwig and Belle), and it is stuffed to the pudding with Victorian songs and sentiments and paradigms. Many old favorites return (Daniel DeVries, Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant, Bart Hansard, Terry Burrell, Shelli Delgado, Lowrey Brown, Kylie Brown). A couple favorite Atlanta actors venture forth for the first time (Eric Mendenhall, Tess Malis Kincaid), and one (Daniel Thomas May) makes a most welcome return in a new role (Fred).
So, I hereby resurrect my usual pastiche (slightly rewritten) for your reading displeasure:
(With apologies to Mr. Dickens, Clement Clarke Moore, cast members I couldn't fit into the rhyme/rhythm scheme, and anyone with a taste for poetry.)
‘Twas the month before Christmas, and on every stage,
A Christmas Carol played, it’s still all the rage!
A thousand-one Cratchits, four-thousand-four ghosts
Help Scrooge thaw his heart, help Fred make his toasts.
Though many more stages engage in this play,
Th’Alliance’s effort’s the subject this day.
It’s my thousandth year seeing this marvellous play,
It’s my thousandth year keeping my quibbling at bay.
Like oft before, it's David DeVries, who is Scrooge,
He's harsh till he's warm, his range can be huge.
I liked all the Cratchits, a wonderful throng.
I liked the extravagant staging and song.
This year, the Ghost of Christmases Past
Is Tess Kincaid, most wonderf’lly cast!
Eric Mendenhall is a Marley, most cold,
His chains and his darkness are vivid and bold.
And all of the costumes and all of the lights
Are beautif’lly rendered, are beautiful sights.
Yes, once again Rosemary Newcott succeeds
In staging this marvellous Holiday Deed.
This tale never tires, it gives me a lift.
For me it’s a welcome Victorian gift.
So, while you are wallowing in Christmassy cheer,
Remember this show (it's done for this year).
Before I sign off with my usual cheek,
Merry Christmas to All! May you have a safe week!
-- Brad Rudy (BK Rudy@aol.com @bk_rudy #AllianceCarol #MerryChristmasToAll)