Theater review: "A Christmas Carol"
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Saturday, December 08, 2012
12/08/12 at 4:17 AM
It may be "in the bleak midwinter" when "A Christmas Carol" takes place, but American Theatre Company's 2012 edition of its annual holiday production is surprisingly bright and sunny.
The company has been presenting its original adaptation of Charles Dickens' story - script by Robert Odle, music by Richard Averill, lyrics by both - for 35 years.
And little has changed about the show during that time, beyond a redesign in the 1990s of the highly mobile Victorian London streetscape, designed by Richard Ellis, that is the play's set.
What does alter from year to year - even if those alterations are ever so slight - is the tone of the show. We've seen productions in which the darkness at the heart of the story was greatly emphasized (this is a tale, after all, that opens with the line "Marley was dead, to begin with").
But that isn't the case this year. If anything, this "Christmas Carol" seems determined to put the happiest possible face on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose sour and miserly attitudes to life and his fellow man undergo cataclysmic change during the course of an evening's worth of spectral visitations.
The unpleasant truths about poverty and want, about death and despair, that underline Dickens' story are present in ATC's version, but director Ed Durnal and cast treat them lightly so that they do not cast too long a shadow over the merrier aspects of the story.
Karl Krause isn't sure himself how many times he's played the role of Scrooge, but that familiarity with the character hasn't dulled his enthusiasm for the part. His performance at Thursday's opening night show at the Tulsa PAC had all the energy and vigor audiences have come to expect.
And, as befits everything going on around him, Krause's portrayal was lighter in tone, as well - this was a Scrooge whose "Bah, humbug!" is worse than his bite. He also delivered Scrooge's song of realization, "How Little I've Got," as good - maybe better - than we've heard him do it in the past.
Seth Paden, as a younger version of Scrooge, and Melissa Starkweather, as the Spirit of Christmas Past, are the other vocal standouts in the cast. Starkweather's "Let's Go Back to Yesterday" had an appropriately ethereal tone, while Paden shone in his brief passages in "I Wish You Happiness."
Stephen J. Fendt is his usual boisterous self as the Spirit of Christmas Present as long as he was speaking; his singing didn't quite have the same level of exuberance. Rick Reiman plays Jacob Marley as a ghost more forlorn than frightening. Cody McCoy and Cathy Woods went at the roles of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig with an almost indecent amount of gusto.
Jeremy Stevens directed the show's music, Christina Jenkins and Lauren Haskell did the choreography, Aaron Veale handled the sound.
"A Christmas Carol" continues with performances through Dec. 23 at the Tulsa PAC, 110 E. Second St. For tickets: 918-596-7111, tulsaworld.com/mytix
Original Print Headline: Production offers merry 'Christmas Carol'
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Ebenezer Scrooge (Karl Krause) dances at the behest of the Ghost of Christmas Present (Steven Fendt) in this scene from "A Christmas Carol." Courtesy