By Alec Clayton
Following decades of the popular Stardust shows at Harlequin Productions, the company embarks on a new holiday tradition with a production of A Christmas Carol adapted and directed by Aaron Lamb, who is also in the cast.
“The great majority of the text is directly from the page,” Lamb says. “We’re as close to the Dickens original as we can be, with a couple of major changes. My adaptation is a collage of all my favorite parts of other productions and versions of A Christmas Carol that I’m familiar with, with some of my own choices. As a professional actor, I did a holiday show every year for 12 years, and most of those, the best ones, were some version of A Christmas Carol. Some of my own best theater experiences are with this show.”
Many people are familiar with an elaborate musical production of this Dickens classic tale. This is not that. This is a dramatic production with minimal — but outstanding — lighting by Olivia Burlingame (Eurydice, The Women, Man of La Mancha) and special effects by John Serembe (Until the Flood, The Highest Tide, Hotel Olympian 100th-Anniversary Grand Gala Extravaganza). The sparseness of the set enhances the effectiveness of the effects. The only set pieces are boxes arranged to form a desk, bed and other things.
The show begins with a chorus of Londoners holding lanterns and telling the audience about Ebenezer Scrooge (Terry Edward Moore). Scrooge appears on stage counting his money and berating his employee Bob Cratchit, his nephew Fred (Lamb), and a fellow trying to collect money for charity.
Then the ghosts arrive. Unlike the overplayed ghosts in many versions, especially the musicals, these ghosts appear shrouded in fog but otherwise just as they were in life. The exception is Jacob Marley (a frightening and commanding Russ Holm), whose ghost wears a worn, old suit and is wrapped in chains.
Moore is simply marvelous as Scrooge — not, as in some productions, a cartoon Scrooge, but a believable 19th-century London money manager who expresses a wide range of emotions through voice, expression and movement. Moore’s a seasoned, professional actor who’s performed at Seattle Repertory Theater, Book It, Fifth Avenue, Intiman, the Village, Taproot, Seattle Children’s and Seattle Shakespeare. He isn’t new to the role, having played Scrooge three times at ACT in Seattle.
Other than Moore, no cast members are identified by character name in the program. Each plays multiple roles, and some are understudies for others. They are listed as Player 1, Andrew Yabroff; Player 2 and swing, Jana Tyrell (who plays the Ghost of Christmas Past among other roles); Player 3 and swing, Nathan Rice; Player 4, Holm; Player 5 and swing, Kate Anders; Player 6 and swing; Lamb; Wade Mutchler and boy, Teddy Clifthorne; Eleanor Rose Kinn and girl, Twana Beedle (doubling as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come).
This version of A Christmas Carol is credible yet highly stylized, funny and emotionally moving. It’s highly recommended. It’s a short play, running 75 minutes with no intermission. Masks and proof of vaccination are required.
Photos courtesy Harlequin Productions and Shanna Paxton Photography.
A Christmas Carol
7:30 p.m. Wednesdays, Dec. 1 and 8; Fridays, Dec. 3 and 10; Thursday, Dec. 9 and Saturday, Dec. 11;
2 p.m. Saturdays, Dec. 4 and 11 and Sundays, Dec. 5 and 12
Harlequin Productions’ State Theater, 202 Fourth Ave. E, Olympia