Dec. 14, 2007 performance reviewed by Frances Benn Hall.
One of the joys of this Christmas season is that the Berkshire Theatre Festival’s delightful production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is back again in the Unicorn Theatre where it will be running, in numerous matinees and early evening performances, until December 30.
(Photos by Ryan Chittaphong)
The Unicorn stage on which Victorian England has been lovingly created by scenic designer Carl Sprague is awash with 27 actors, ages ranging from third-grader Helen Crescentini, as a young Crachit, to adults such as leading actor Eric Hill as a Scrooge who looks a hundred in his first gloomy appearances but is, by the end, capering and jolly.
Hill, who also co-directed the production, along with E. Gary Simons III, has woven the 90 minute story into an ever-flowing, ever-evolving, ever-loving holiday gift for the Berkshires.
The production is rife with music, beginning with the London streets crowded with carolers while Scrooge looms in distain high above them. The rapid-fire, finely coordinated many scene changes are accompanied by music and at times by individual songs, those of the young children in the cast being especially effective.
A “Silent Night” duo by two beautiful wistful young girls in harmony was lovely. Sorting out their names from the program eluded me, but the violinist high on her balcony was Jahana Stanton, a 7th grader, and one of a family of four talented youngsters present in the production.
Costumer Jessica Risser-Milne has done a magnificent job in recreating the period down to the very tips of the tiny boots worn by the children. The top hats, the women’s gowns, and of course the fantasy attire of the three Christmas ghosts—all stepping right off an old Christmas card.
Central to the play and the production is Scrooge. Hill is, as one might expect, wonderful in the role—from curmudgeon to philanthropist his face and gait registering subtle transition.
In such a large cast one cannot mention and praise all who deserve it. Moments that stood out for this reviewer were, at times, tiny ones.
When Hallie Novak and Rider Stanton stood perfectly still in the embrace of the second ghost (Anthony Mark Stockard ), representing Want and Ignorance, not moving, just there in a quiet hopelessness, while the Spirit taunted Scrooge with his own words, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” – Dickens’s dark-side message of the play struck right at the heart.
All three ghost scenes (plus Matthew Crider’s Marley appearance) are handled brilliantly, from the light airy time/spacer traveler (Ramona L. Alexander), to the silent stilted black figure of Christmas future (Travis G. Daly). Their eerie aspects should tend to fascinate but not scare children at the matinee.
And children will love, as we do, Tiny Tim (Nate Stump) who at the play’s end gives us Dickens’s message, God bless us, Every One!
Go and be blest. Merry Christmas!