August 21, 2014
Dec 11, 2012
11:14 AM

Theatre Review: A Christmas Carol

Joseph Ziegler is the perfect Scrooge (Image: Cylla von Tiedemann)

Yes, the Eaton Centre’s Christmas tree is more glitzy than traditional this year and, yes, it was annoying when stores started playing Christmas music in November — bah humbug! But in this season of shopping-till-dropping and stuffing our faces, there is refuge from the commercially driven nature of the season; one that encourages everyone to become more communal and more loving towards each other. I’m referring to Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, of course.

Soulpepper Theatre has been putting on productions of the classic Christmas story for years now; with its magical quality and charismatic performances, it’s no wonder that it’s quickly becoming a beloved holiday tradition, much like eggnog lattes or attending an ugly Christmas sweater party.

What I found most unique about this particular Soulpepper performance was the stage. For this production, adapter/director Michael Shamata uses theatre-in-the-round staging, offering audience members the chance to see one another, sharing in their varied feelings: from bewilderment to hope, from despair to joy.

There was a unity in our theatre going experience that I found to be very endearing. One caveat to this setup was that it was difficult to hear the actors speak when their backs were to us. A bit more projection would be much appreciated, especially since each performer — from the Harlequins (Daniel Chapman-Smith, Tangara Jones) to the Cratchit children (Sabrina Nardi, Rhys Fulton-Doyle, Charlotte Dennis, Anton Gillis-Adelman) to Ebenezer Scrooge himself (phenomenally played by Jospeh Ziegler) — was worth every shilling to behold. John Jarvis, who pulled quadruple-duty as Jacob Marley and all three Ghosts, was another standout (and I’m still in awe of how quickly he could change costumes).

The stage itself was simple, but it wondrously transformed from Scrooge’s bedroom to the Christmas party thrown by Mr. Fezziwig (the exuberant Kevin Bundy) in a mere blink of an eye.

The costumes were exquisite, as was the perfectly timed choreography. And the lighting was gorgeous (the lighting scheme for Scrooge’s ticking clock was genius).

I really could praise the beauty of this play — both for its acting and its ambiance — until the Christmas of Yet to Come became Christmas Present, but what remains most special about this story is its resonance. Whether you say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or “a Festivus for the rest of us,” the story’s message of generosity and universal love — and that everyone is deserving of a second chance — is the most important takeaway from this hectic holiday.

A Christmas Carol, Young Centre for the Performing Arts, 50 Tank House Lane, 416-866-8666. Now - Dec. 29