December 5, 2016
Special to The Alexandria Times
It’s that jolly, spooky, heartwarming, Charles Dickens time of year again and, like The Nutcracker, many families hold dear the tradition of seeing A Christmas Carol together. The Little Theatre of Alexandria has been mounting this play for eons, but each year it’s a different version depending on who’s directing and what elements of the story they choose to emphasize. For Director Michael J. Baker, Jr. it was important to delve into the original book, plumb the depths of Dickens, and cherish some of the best lines. “Bad lobster in a dark cellar”, in which Scrooge describes the face of Marley during his first ghostly encounter, was taken from the original, but I’d never heard it before. There’s a certain ominous and indelibly charming alliterative ring to it that sets the tone for shades of things to come.
Clearly Baker has done his homework. As a veteran of the role of Scrooge (five times!), he brings an actor’s perspective and a director’s experience to the classic tale of the penurious, humbugger, Ebenezer Scrooge. In one particular instance young Scrooge is abandoned by his family at his boarding school, Baker draws on Dickens’ love of Ali Baba and plunks a parrot outside the window. It’s subtle but it’s there, as is a reference to “Robin” Crusoe, from Defoe, another of Dickens’ favorite authors.
Baker and Music Director Linda Wells weave in lots of traditional Christmas carols and Sound Designer Lynn Lacey throws in plenty of spooky effects as the trio of spirits (they’re a new addition too) and the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Clare Baker), Future (Pat Jannell) and Present (Janette Moman, who does notable double duty as the hilariously crooked Mrs. Dilber) haunt the ‘dickens’ out of Scrooge.
The sets, too, have changed. Set Designer Mary Hutzler treats us to a charming Victorian village with chapel and schoolhouse and scenes of the streets that include both the poor and the posh sides of London town.
But any production of A Christmas Carol must have its adorable children (and these are as sweet as candy canes and hot chocolate on a cold winter’s day), its grisly ghosts (note well Larry O. Grey, Jr. as he smoothly segues between the dual roles of Marley’s ghost-in-chains and the jolly Fezziwig, two of the most disparate characters in the play) and its courtly gentlemen. Ryan Phillips shines as both Young Scrooge and Topper and Matthew Fager is notable as the kindly Bob Cratchit. But the thread that holds the piece together is indeed Tony Gilbert as Scrooge whose ability to go from curmudgeonly to compassionate is absolute perfection.
Find the true meaning of the season here and in your hearts.
Through December 17th at The Little Theatre of Alexandria, 600 Wolfe Street. For tickets and information call the box office at 703 683-0496 or visit www.thelittletheatre.com