“A Christmas Carol” is old but always fresh

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"A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre photos by T. Charles Erickson
McCarter Theatre holiday tradition is highly recommended

It’s the third go-around for this version of the McCarter Theatre Center’s traditional Christmas production of A Christmas Carol. It’s my pleasure to say that it’s as fresh and enjoyable as its literary counterpart. I’ve recommended it as an enjoyable holiday offering for the past two years, and I’m recommending it again. Warm and funny and at times scary — it’s a ghost story at heart, you know — this production is a truly fine example of entertainment for the entire family.

"A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre photos by T. Charles Erickson
“A Christmas Carol” at McCarter Theatre photos by T. Charles Erickson

David Thompson’s book hews closely to Charles Dickens’ original story but adds some scenes that help explain some of the novel’s plot points without coming across as modern-day “improvements”. As for the score by Michael Friedman, it is by turns boisterous and romantic with a sense of belonging to the world of London in 1843. Adam Immerwahr’s direction and Lorin Latarro’s choreography again are skillfully delightful.

A highlight is Greg Wood’s outstanding portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge

A mixed cast of seasoned professionals and talented amateurs bring Victorian London to life. Heading the cast as he has for the past two seasons is Greg Wood’s outstanding portrayal of Ebenezer Scrooge. Also returning from last year’s production are Jon Norman Schneider (Bob Cratchit), Anne L. Nathan (Mrs. Fezziwig), Sue Jin Song (Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper), and Zeke Edmonds (Young Scrooge). Joining them this year are Kristin Villanueva (Lily/Belle), Zahra Lohoue (Christmas Past), Steven Rattazi (Mr. Fezziwig), Adele Batchelder (Christmas Present), Sharina Martin (Mrs. Cratchit), and Paul Deo Jr. (Young Marley). The stage-filling company is staffed with two ensembles, one of children and the other a large cohort of chorus members from the local communities around McCarter Theatre Center.

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"A Christmas Carol" at McCarter Theatre photos by T. Charles Erickson
The cast of “A Christmas Carol” at McCarter Theatre photos by T. Charles Erickson

McCarter’s design team has again transformed the stage of the Matthews Theatre into a warm, enveloping Victorian London that is that land of hidden magic demanded by A Christmas Carol. Creating the London of two centuries ago is the challenge met by set designer Daniel Ostling, turning the proscenium arch into the walls and roof of a house of the era and the stage into a gliding, turning, even exploding wonderland; lighting designer Lap Chi Chu, taking us from the bright whiteness of a long-ago Christmas to the midnight chill of a graveyard; and special effects designer Jeremy Chernick, whose clever and often surprising work I will not list here for fear of spoiling the wonder. Linda Cho’s costume designs, ranging over two decades of the 1880’s, are still wondrous.

Don’t miss the short window to see A Christmas Carol at McCarter

The show’s playbill notes that this year’s production of A Christmas Carol is dedicated to the memory of the show’s composer, Michael Friedman. McCarter Theatre Center has blessed us for the third year in a row with this adaptation of Charles Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol featuring Friedman’s beautiful score. Give yourself and those you love an early gift by seeing this show before its all-too-short engagement is over.

A Christmas Carol is presented by the McCarter Theatre Center at the Matthews Theatre on the campus of Princeton University through December 29, 2018. For tickets and information, visit mccarter.org.