Children of all ages are in luck! Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge can be found on several stages in the DC-Maryland-Virginia area and one of the most engaging versions of “A Christmas Carol” is now playing at Silver Spring Stage.
“Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” is a fast and funny twist the famous holiday ghost story by Charles Dickens, this time aimed at the young and young of heart. Silver Spring Stage offers a most lovely rendition of this hour-long play which is told from the perspective of another beloved character from the oft-told tale: Tiny Tim.
Co-written by Ken Ludwig and his son Jack. “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” premiered several seasons back at Adventure Theatre MTC. The Ludwigs present a child-friendly version of Scrooge’s eventful night, with many of the darker elements smoothed out. This version is also highlighted by many direct addresses to the audience, by Tiny Tim, Scrooge and other characters.
As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone!” And God bless Silver Spring Stage for sharing this delightful story and the heartfelt lessons it holds for all of us.
The teenaged Tim – played with panache and charm by Asher Howell – welcomes the audience with the help of a group of Dickensian carolers. In fact, the carols keep coming throughout the play adding a seasonal touch to the transitions. The detailed and picturesque period costumes designed by Jim Hoobler complete their look with style.
The older Tim, now cured of rickets, standing without the aid of his signature crutch, is a dapper young man in a top hat. With his friend Charlotte, Tim recalls the earlier Christmas eve when the now benevolent Scrooge was “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.” Tim and Charlotte – performed by the clear-voiced and expressive Anna Uehlein – serve as narrators, expertly setting the scene to the Christmas Eve, five years in the past.
Tim’s father, as most readers will know, is Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit – played by Peter Rouleau. The Ludwig’s added Charlotte as the daughter of Scrooge’s nephew Fred – performed by Peter Orvetti. As Scrooge’s grand-niece, Charlotte knows more about his troubled childhood, which will come in handy soon enough. With both children tied closely to Scrooge, as children, they visited his office on Christmas Eve to witness how poorly Bob was treated by Scrooge. Tim boldly speaks up to defend his put-upon father, with Charlotte speaking up too.
The children decide to teach Scrooge a lesson in charity and good manners, enlisting the local urchins and street vendors to assist. Think of it less as a supernatural ghost story and more of an ultimate prank on old Scrooge. Instead of his late business partner Jacob Marley returning from the grave, for example, Ebenezer is visited by the local pie seller – also played by Orvetti – dressed as Marley. When the Ghost of Christmas Past enters, the neighborhood book-seller – Riley Cruickshank – tricks the old miser. And it’s Miss Hollyfoot – played by Edwina Neely – of one of the local charities who becomes the Ghost of Christmas Present. Each visit is comically charged offering many playful moments. All the while, Tiny Tim and Charlotte are one step ahead of Scrooge, keeping the deception going, fooling him into thinking he is looking at his bleak past, present and future and that of others.
As Ebenezer, Andrew Greenleaf finds a wonderful balance between the mean-spirited Scrooge and the later open-hearted, changed man. He also has an easy rapport with the audience, appealing to adults and children alike. Greenleaf and company’s connection to the audience, and the hour-long playing time, serves as an ideal situation for even the youngest theatergoer, as evidenced by the lad I sat beside. The boy had been brought by his grandmother to the show and his pre-show excitement was difficult to contain. Once under the spell of the performers, he sat transfixed by the action, giggled at the sight gags, and beamed when Greenleaf looked right at him as Scrooge. So did I, and I think you will, too.
Director Jim Robertson is blessed with an energetic ensemble of youth and adult performers who maintain the quickly paced action. The suggested sets, designed by Joy Wyne, are enhanced by an array of period props by Greenleaf and Brendan Murray. The production can also boast an effective lighting design by Bill Strein.
The playwrights may have condensed the story down to an hour and aimed it at younger audiences, but the message of goodwill and the better treatment of fellow humans is still at the heart of “Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol.” The lesson of tolerance, peace, and acceptance is as vital today as it was when Dickens penned this story more than a century ago. As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone!” And God bless Silver Spring Stage for sharing this delightful story and the heartfelt lessons it holds for all of us.
Running Time: 1 hour, no intermission.
“Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol” runs through December 22 at Silver Spring Stage, 10145 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. For tickets, call (301) 593-6036, or click here.