Take a renowned holiday classic, sprinkle a pinch of humor, and mix with a heaping of Baltimore conventions, and you’ve got a recipe for a fantastic holiday show — Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s “A Christmas Carol”! Set in CSC’s exquisite tri-level theater, complete with a bar and lounge you can partake of throughout the show, this clever adaptation by Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar wonderfully preserves the warm fuzzies of Ebenezer Scrooge’s redemptive journey within a contemporary package that “kids from 1 to 92” can relate to and adore.
If you’re a Baltimorean, you may find the play’s setting strangely familiar, but not because you’re witnessing a dry restaging of the well-known Dickens classic; rather, you’ll find stops along Fells Point, Mount Vernon, and Cecil County during Scrooge’s haunting journey with the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. As the spirits confront ol’ crotchety Scrooge and challenge his miserly ways, he remembers a love lost as an overly-ambitious young apprentice, witnesses a rather, ahem, spirited house party where he’s the butt of some rather caustic jokes and beholds a cold, unaffected public amidst a lonely grave that awaits him should he refuse to mend his ways.
…[T]his clever adaptation …wonderfully preserves the warm fuzzies of Ebenezer Scrooge’s redemptive journey within a contemporary package that “kids from 1 to 92” can relate to and adore.
Under Ian Gallanar’s direction, CSC’s “A Christmas Carol” features all the components of a well-crafted production, including strong technical direction, lively staging, and talented, skilled performing. With additional staging by Scott Alan Small (who also plays the often-sympathized Bob Cratchit), the production’s multi-leveled staging promises great action and storytelling to those seated at even the highest point of the theater.
Thrust staging adds further appeal, enticing audience members who enjoy being right next to the action! Expect to feel transported to 1843 Baltimore thanks to great period costuming by Costume Designer Kristina Lambdin. Lambdin’s lush, vibrantly colored early-Victorian stylings made their mark with sweeping bell-shaped dresses and tailored waistcoats, which were beautifully accentuated with Haley Raines Young’s hair and wig design, complete with buns, ringlets, and looped braids characteristic of the period. I also enjoyed the pair’s stylings of Marley’s creepy ghost, hollowed with sunken eyes and burdened with layers of chains, and the paradoxically peculiar Ghost of Christmas Past, a disturbingly cryptic version of Glenda the Good Witch. In addition, Technical Director/Scenic Designer/Lighting Designer Daniel O’Brien also left ominous, evocative impressions through an exciting combination of lighting and atmospheric effects to haunt and taunt ol’ Scrooge and the audience alike.
An impressive cast of actors and youth actors will delight you and move you to tears with talented vocals and commanding stage presence. The effervescence they project is simply a joy to watch. Gregory Burgess stirs contempt, yet draws a strange sympathy as a heartless Ebenezer Scrooge who clumsily, in almost child-like manner, rediscovers the heart he’s detached for so long. His redemptive scene with Elliott Kashner (Fred, Scrooge’s Nephew) and Elana Michelle (Dorothy, Fred’s wife) was particularly moving. I enjoyed Elliott Kashner’s natural approach to his role as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, and Keegan Cassady as Jacob Marley’s ghost, a Baltimore businessman, and the Chicken Man brought great energy to all three roles. Kathryne Daniels as Mrs. Fezziwig was utterly hilarious; I found her cheeky humor charming. I also adored Kate Forton’s rich alto voice. Her dirge solo in the watermen scene is particularly moving and memorable.
As an added treat, the Baltimore Jazz Vocal Ensemble provided festive pre-show entertainment. With soothing renditions of holiday favorites like “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “Happy Holiday,” all a cappella style, this lovely ensemble gets you in the holiday mood.
It’s apparent that Chesapeake Shakespeare Company strives to form real, palpable connections with contemporary audiences. Their creative approach to classics as in “A Christmas Carol” not only keeps the classics alive and fresh but keeps the role of theatre itself alive – that is, to establish and maintain an organic dialogue about our human experience with the community. Their use of colorblind casting underscores this effort, making the world of the classic play relatable to our contemporary world.
Grab the kids and head out to CSC’s “A Christmas Carol” for a jolt of Christmas spirit with a dose of Baltimore attitude!
Running time: Approximately 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission.
“A Christmas Carol” shows on weekends and select weeknights until December 23 at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company, 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD 21202. For tickets and information, contact the box office at 410-244-8570, or click here.