There are only 17 days until Christmas. And if the words “Bah! Humbug!” are rattling around in your brain, or you’re looking for some holiday cheer, then head over to Portland Stage for its 15th annual staging of “A Christmas Carol.”

Ghostly apparitions, a curmudgeonly miser and a little boy with a heart of gold are a definite time-tested recipe for a spirited Christmas.

Those who are familiar with Portland Stage’s “A Christmas Carol” will notice some changes in this year’s production. Maureen Butler, a staple as Mrs. Cratchit, has relinquished the role to Portland Stage affiliate artist Bess Welden.

Tom Butler (“Bach At Leipzig,” “Two Rooms” and “Magnetic North”) steps into Ebenezer Scrooge’s miserly shoes and Torsten Hillhouse (“The 39 Steps” and “Out of Sterno”) tackles the role of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred. Portland Stage newcomer Jenny Maguire exuberantly takes on the three-part role of the ghosts.

Expect a few changes in the presentation of the story as well, including a new opening that provides a visual of Jacob Marley’s funeral. And, overall, Scrooge interacts more with the shadows of his past, present and future.

Susan Thomas has provided enhancements to her luscious costuming. Most notably, the Ghost of Christmas Past has a new breathtaking, bell-shaped, sleeveless gown that magically glistens with silver beadwork.

Children will delight in Butler’s portrayal of Scrooge. A cross between Mr. Magoo and the Cowardly Lion, he whacks his cane emphatically, stabs the air with it like it’s a stake of holly and laughs at his own mean-spirited jokes. But the slightest bump in the night turns his legs to jelly.

Mark Honan returns as Scrooge’s poor clerk, Bob Cratchit. It seems impossible that Honan could embody the spirit of Mr. Cratchit more, but each year he manages to outdo himself. The British-born actor is a marvel to watch as he dances, bowlegged, across the stage with childlike enthusiasm. And his grief at the loss of Tiny Tim tugs at the heartstrings.

Also returning are Daniel Noel and Sally Wood. Noel lends an eerie effect to the play as Marley, which contrasts nicely with the jollier roles he steps into for the rest of the production. Wood always pleases in her roles as Belle and Fred’s wife. Genuine heartbreak is audible in her voice when she, as Belle, realizes she has lost Scrooge to the tight-fisted grip of greed.

Eighteen charming ensemble members, mostly children, round out the robust cast. As usual, there are two ensembles, red and green, that rotate through the show schedule. Saturday night’s performance featured the red ensemble, with third-grader Tommy DiPhilippo cast adorably as the frail Tiny Tim.

 

 

April Boyle is a free-lance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: [email protected]