December 9, 2012

Review: This 'Carol' not same old song and dance

By APRIL BOYLE

Charles Dickens would have turned 200 this year. In celebration of his milestone birthday, Portland Stage Company has brought Dickens' beloved "A Christmas Carol" back to its stage with a re-imagined rendition.

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THEATER REVIEW

“A Christmas Carol” by Portland Stage

WHERE: 25A Forest Ave., Portland

DATE REVIEWED: Saturday; play runs through Dec. 24

TICKETS: $39-$44 ($35-$40 seniors 65+, $20 students (with college ID) and $15 children (age 5-15 with purchase of adult ticket)

CONTACT: 774-0465, www.portlandstage.org

The overall production is the same as years past, but Portland Stage is spicing up the classic with a few new touches. There is new accompanying music by Hans Indigo Spencer, more singing from the cast, and additional visual and sound affects.

Portland Stage is also shaking up the cast. Longtime audience favorites Mark Honan (Bob Cratchit) and Daniel Noel (Jacob Marley) are returning to their roles, along with Sally Wood as Belle. The rest of the primary cast is made up of a lot of faces that are new to the roles, or haven't been seen in recent memory.

Tom Ford stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, delivering an interpretation of the wayward miser that's somewhat of a departure. Ford's Scrooge is flippant and sarcastic, with a maniacal laugh that gives the character a touch of underlying instability. He's definitely in need of reclamation.

This time around, it's Patricia Buckley (Ghosts) who pulls Scrooge back from the brink. Her three ghostly characters each have their own distinct personalities, beautifully accented by Susan Thomas' lush costuming.

There's an eerie serenity to Buckley's Ghost of Christmas Past, made all the more otherworldly by a hollow sound effect on her voice. This contrasts nicely with the warm, boisterousness of her Ghost of Christmas Present.

Ian Carlsen is Scrooge's nephew, Fred. He is well-cast, bringing a playful, unquenchable enthusiasm to the role. He also doubles as Scrooge's younger self, highlighting how much the character has changed over the years.

Rounding out the primary cast is Abigail Killeen as Mrs. Cratchit. Killeen delivers a compassionate, nurturing performance that compliments Honan's exuberance.

Honan is a delight, as always. Both Honan and Noel revel in their roles, never seeming to tire of their characters. The two manage to bring something new to each incarnation of the production, ensuring the magic never ends.

Wood is a whirlwind of energy, delivering a genuine performance that captures Belle's kind and sympathetic nature.

The primary cast members step into a variety of secondary roles as well, supported by a 13-member ensemble. There are two ensemble casts, red and green, that rotate throughout the run. The performance Saturday night featured the green ensemble, with Ruby Peterman in the role of Tiny Tim.

This year's rendition of Portland Stage's "A Christmas Carol" is a fast-paced production that easily holds the attention of all ages with its timeless tale of struggle and redemption. The visual and sound effects provide plenty of fun surprises and capture the feel of 19th-century England.

Village cutouts, with lighted windows, adorn the walls next to the audience, giving the illusion that the audience is part of the story.

The addition of more musical elements adds to the overall holiday cheer of the production.

Portland Stage once again delivers a heartwarming performance that truly reminds us all what this festive time of the year is really about.

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

aprilhboyle@yahoo.com.

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