"A Christmas Carol" show #824
(Cast of A Christmas Carol; Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
What to do with a story that’s been in the public domain for so long it’s been done so many ways? Well, you hand it to Jack Thorne and say, “here, do something with it.” So, Mr. Thorne takes the story and gives it a macro-touch. The overall story of Thorne’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, currently playing at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theater, brings focus to the story we all know with loads of exposition into every character. Yes, the ghosts receive their deserved stage time, and yes, Tiny Tim will bless every one of us on behalf of God. But Thorne’s script brings to light how much humanity and magic are in Dickens’ text. Thorne’s script allows audiences to enjoy the musicality and visual attraction of A Christmas Carol in a way that is not commonly presented to audiences. Sure, you care if Scrooge buys Bob the big goose for Christmas, but in this version, the characters serve the message, and under the lovely direction by Jamie Manton, this production is sure to entertain and, where the technical designs are concerned, truly impress.
(Upstage, L to R: Nancy Opel (Ghost of Christmas Past), Amber Iman (Ghost of Christmas Present), Monica Ho (Fan/Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come); Downstage: Francois Battiste (Scrooge); Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
Francois Battiste is an exceptional Scrooge, infusing a cadence of classic protagonist as if the Dickens character has simply been lifted from the novel with the volume turned up. He, as expected, holds the bulk of the line load and each line, lesson, and insult is given intention and reason. The physicality Battiste gives Scrooge allows for the time travelling demands between “present-day” Scrooge and younger scrooge opposite his sister, Fan, and his first love, Belle, a truer chemistry than when played by different actors. Monica Ho is a lovely Fan, who doubles as Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. By peeling back the traditionally voiceless, imposing figure, Scrooge is convicted and inspired by three ghosts who seem intent on ensuring guilt is felt and self-improvement is made. Nancy Opel is a snarkily bubbly Ghost of Christmas Past, standing strong against the stubborn Scrooge, while still giving a welcoming warmth for audiences to love. Amber Iman is excellent as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Iman gives a lot with a little, and the ending determining of the ghost’s “real” name is a well-earned laugh-out-loud moment.
(Francois Battiste (Scrooge) and Ben Beckley (pictured as Marley); Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
Ramzi Khalaf delivers a demure Bob Cratchit, finding times of sympathy, but with the bigger focus on message and not messengers, his performance serves the bigger change in Scrooge’s generosity rather than sympathy for the Cratchits. LeRoy S. Graham III is boomingly charming as Fred, nephew to Scrooge. His leading of The Game scene is filled with genuine love towards his uncle Scrooge while still serving the macro-message that people who give unconditional love, especially when you are family, are always a hug away. Ben Beckley is superb in his double-duty track as Marley and Scrooge’s Father. Yes, we meet Scrooge’s abusive, alcoholic, spendthrift father. Though it serves as an origin story for Ebenezer’s coldness and rigidity, it continues to play into Thorne’s overall theme while placing an emotional investment on audiences much earlier for Scrooge’s improvement. Charlie Berghoffer IV, as Tiny Tim, is delightful with each line and earnest delivery of the iconic youngster. Rounding out the principal cast is a fabulous Colin Thomson as the jovial Mr. Fezziwig. Thorne’s adaptation is consistent with Fezziwig being a presence which brings the very joy and paternal care Ebenezer craves and receives, and Thomson delivers this in spades.
(Francois Battiste (Scrooge), Colin Thomson (pictured as Mr. Fezziwig), Ash Malloy (Belle); Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
The technical designs, which swept last year’s Tony awards, are done so well they’re nearly a show on their own. Rob Howell’s set design is given the minimal treatment, but is specific in design, especially the door frames and placing of the lighting fixtures, that audiences don’t need much to know where each scene is set. Hugh Vanstone’s lighting design is incredibly paired in nuance with the music and book scenes, both on stage and bordering the proscenium. Christopher Nightingale’s Tony-winning composition does well in its mood-setting and is beautifully performed that the few moments of silence are rapturous.
(Cast in A Christmas Carol; Photo credit: Joan Marcus)
A Christmas Carol rarely comes up short in giving audiences the holiday joy they want when going to see a production, and this touring company is no exception. I encourage you to grab the scarves and mittens and head over to the Golden Gate Theater to check out this A Christmas Carol, a time out at the theater you won’t regret.