At this time of year, stages are packed across the country with variations on classic Christmas stories, of which Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” is understandably the most ubiquitous. The Old Globe transplanted Briton Ebenezer Scrooge to San Diego, sprinkling the storyline with regional references that made audiences laugh.
The excellent cast of five skillfully handles all the different characters, with only Bill Buell playing a single role, that of the main character Ebenezer Scrooge. Staged at the Sheryl and Harvey White Theater Conrad Prebys Theater Center, the 80-minute one-act play moves quickly, efficiently, and pleasantly through what can often be a much longer production. Credit Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen with the tight script, skillfully directed by Greenberg.
The minimal setting emphasizes the actors, each of whom plays with aplomb. More than 50 characters are tested by the troop of five.
George Abud magically shrinks to play Tiny Tim, and Cathryn Wake shines as Lavinia and Archibald. Congratulations also to the hot Orville Mendoza (Cratchitt, Marley, Fezzi) and to the versatile Jacque Wile (Gertrude Saint, Mme Cratchit).
What better way to move the action to San Diego than to send Scrooge to California to earn his fortune? We get the best of both worlds: Victorian England and sunny SoCal. One of the favorite characters in the work is Scrooge’s former employer, Fezziwig. Here, the jovial employer is in the wig business and is naturally called Mr. Fezzi. The in-joke works much better on stage than on paper.
Efficient lighting (Amanda Zieve) refines the outline of the different ghosts. (Trivial answer: there are four ghosts in “A Christmas Carol”, most people answer three).
As Scrooge’s temper evolves, Buell explodes with joy. Scrooge is arguably the most famous stage character showing an arc of his character, and Broadway veteran Buell admirably evokes change.
And when you think the action is over, sit back. The troupe grab instruments and walk through a set of holiday classics.
This production operates on multiple levels, so get the whole family together and plan the regionalised version of an international classic.
Ticket information here.