As Christmas rolls around, popular culture is teeming with references to Scrooge and other Dickensian characters. But what would A Christmas Carol be without Marley’s haunting voice or Tiny Tim’s memorable “God bless us, every one!”? An annual performance for Charm City Ballet (CCB), “A Christmas Carol,” as told through dance, not dialogue, aims to find out. With music by Nick Bicat, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, and Tchaikovsky, CCB’s “A Christmas Carol” is sure to delight!
For audience members unfamiliar with the tale, CCB provides a detailed summary in the front of their playbill. A solitary miser, EbenezerScrooge (Rick Southerland) spends Christmas Eve scolding his employee Bob Cratchit (Bronson Shanahan) and shunning beggars (CCB Directors Peter Commander and Rebecca Friedman). When Scrooge returns home that night, the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Amanda Wallach) appears to warn Scrooge about the terrible afterlife that awaits him if he continues with his miserable ways. After Marley disappears, three Christmas ghosts, Past (Molly Feldbush),Present (Madison Bonvissuto), and Future (Faunai Brown), appear in succession to show Scrooge the error of his ways. Given one night to have a change of heart and make amends, Scrooge embarks on an otherworldly journey through time and space to see if he can find the true meaning of Christmas.
…CCB’s “A Christmas Carol” is sure to delight!
As a ballet, “A Christmas Carol” worked surprisingly well. Directors/Choreographers Commander and Friedman stayed true to Dickens’ work down to the smallest details. Though not many performers stood out individually, they danced well together to form a cohesive whole. The company was particularly successful when they danced inlines and circles that moved in opposite directions. They used the space on the stage well. Other choreography that stood out included dancing to imitate iceskating and the line dancing at the Fezziwigs’ (Marquice Harris and Tabitha Discher) party. Individual dancers like Lilly Schultz (Fan), Harris (Mr. Fezziwig and Ignorance), Ellen Bast (Want), and Brown (Ghost of ChristmasFuture) had moments where their footwork, lifts, and leaps stole the show, but they quickly blended back into the ensemble.
While some choreography did not seem to align with the story’s plot, the ensemble carried the show nicely. The Spirits corps, led by Megan Gansfuss and Kaitlyn Winner, intensified the apparition of Marley without requiring extra lighting or special effects. The choreography also allowed the ensemble to play with time, as the dancers regularly froze in unison to emphasize Scrooge’s reactions. Aided by this spotlight (and a literal spotlight), Southerland as Scrooge commanded the stage with his physicality and emotional responses. Though many of the occurrences that required his reaction were similar, Southerland’s responses were varied and entertaining.
The dancing and Southerland’s acting were augmented by the beautiful costumes (Jes Carter, Peter Commander, and Jo Ann Holmes) and effective light design (Todd Mion). The dancers’ colorful costumes juxtaposed with Scrooge’s all black attire visually demonstrated his isolation, and the shifts between warm lighting and darkness was a simple, but effective way to further this divide.
But what makes CCB performances really special is the company’s dedication to making ballet accessible. Its performances are not overly stylized in the way one might expect of ballet, and it boasts dancers of all backgrounds, ages, and abilities with an emphasis on local performers. CCB incorporates talented storytellers, well-planned choreography, and, most importantly, an unbridled love for the arts.
Run time: 2 hours with a 15-minute intermission
Charm City Ballet’s “A Christmas Carol” has finished its 3-show run. However, you can find information on their classes and future performances here or by calling 443-318-4902. Be sure to catch their soon-to-be-announced spring show on June 8 and 9, 2019. Tickets go on sale on April 15th.