With Freeport Factory Stage just barely back from the brink of closing, it could definitely use a hearty dose of Christmas magic.

To ensure the holiday spirit is alive and well, the intimate theater is presenting a special run of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol, ” starring Broadway veteran Will Rhys.

Rhys, who has performed and directed various versions of the play over his extensive career, now gives the classic tale a spirited twist with a one-man staging that is sure to transform even the most miserly of hearts.

“When I moved to Maine,” Rhys writes in the program notes, “I found myself ready to give the story another go. This time, I thought (with more than a touch of hubris) I’d do it all myself. I mean, Charles Dickens did, so why not me?”

And do it he did, indeed. Rhys enthusiastically strode out onto the stage Friday, clutching his script, bound book-like in a red album to represent Dickens’ beloved book.

His obvious love for the life-affirming story was written all over his face.

There was no set, costumes or props, other than two chairs and a stool.

But, with these meager tools, his animated facial expressions and his demonstrative body language, Rhys brought Dickens’ world vividly to life.

He was an actor with multiple personalities as he performed his original adaptation, not only narrating the story, but also giving voice and visualization to about 30 characters.

He read from his script on occasion as the narrator, but otherwise recited the nearly two-hour, two-act production from memory.

Rhys changed characters with the turn of his head, his voice, accent and demeanor, shifting rapidly back and forth as he voiced multiple characters in a conversation.

He was a marvel to watch, his energy and enthusiasm never waning.

Even though the changes were swift, Rhys successfully delivered a full range of emotion and captured the wonderfully quirky nuances of each character.

At times, Bob Cratchit’s voice began a little high as he switched from Mrs. Cratchit, or words were said slightly out of order and corrected.

But the rare stumbles were minor in the grand scheme of the production and, at worst, elicited a merry chuckle from the all-ages audience.

Rhys garnered his fair share of intentional laughs as well, adding vocal sound effects such as the tolling of the clock chimes and the freight-train-like snores from his sleeping Scrooge.

If you want to see a rendition of “A Christmas Carol” that is fully staged, with lavish costumes and multiple actors, this is not the production you are looking for.

Rhys delivers an animated reading that focuses on the words of Dickens, allowing them to leap off the page and into the imagination of the audience.

His rendition is a lively version that embodies the story’s magical message.

And it’s time well spent with a gifted and fascinating storyteller.

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

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