A Christmas Carol

By - Dec 16th, 2008 02:52 pm
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By Christina Sajdak Lucchesi


Once again, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater served up a heaping helping of holiday cheer with its annual production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and a lovelier, more penetrating version of this story one would be hard-pressed to find.  In no other adaptation does the marriage of music, dance, movement and wordscome together so fluidly to convey the audience to the depths and heights intended throughout the tale.  The creative team comprised of Joseph Hanreddy (Milwaukee Repertory Theater Artistic Director) and Edward Morgan, director Judy Berdan, choreographers Cate Deicher and Ed Burgess, and music director Randal Swiggum have collaborated on a masterpiece of multi-dimensional storytelling to touch an audience on many planes. Scenic designer Marjorie Bradley Kellogg, lighting designer Nancy Schertler and costume designer Martha Hally have combined to create visual landscapes that carry the story as if on wings.

The beloved tale of charity and redemption traces the transformation of a miserly man as he is forced to view his life in retrospect. Remorse begins to soften the calloused heart, but true repentance comes only upon his witnessing the shadows of things yet to be. Awakened from his physical sleep by the Ghost of Christmas Past he is at last awakened from his spiritual sleep by the Ghost of Christmas Future and vows to become a new man.

James Pickering’s reprisal of the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is both delightful and heartfelt. Portraying Scrooge with a vulnerability and emotional transparency from the outset is no small task but necessary if the audience is ever to embrace this cold curmudgeon.  Torrey Hanson’s Bob Cratchit is the personification of patience and the steady, understanding counterpoint to his employer’s intolerance. Laura Gordon, in her role as Mrs. Cratchit, is the glass through which we view the timeless conflict between soul and spirit. Ms. Gordon brings this contest to the fore in her character’s struggle to exercise her Christian values toward a man who is a constant reminder of her family’s less than fortunate circumstances.  As she negotiates between the pull of human emotion and her spiritual aspirations she ultimately chooses the high road in keeping with Dickens’ ongoing theme of forgiveness and spiritual growth. Adding levity to the production is the engaging Michael Herold as Mr. Topper. The splash of spirits in the holiday punch, he brings an effervescence and vivacity to his role drawing laughter from the audience with ease. Jonathan Smoots plays the gregarious Mr. Fezziwig to perfection, the embodiment of generosity and good will in this tale. Jenny Wanasek as both Mrs. Dilber and Mrs. Fezziwig displays her versatility with comedy as she moves deftly from the wry sarcasm of Scrooge’s housekeeper to the giddy glee of Mr. Fezziwig’s better half.

Not to be omitted from comment is the cast of child actors who assume several of the major roles and comprise the children’s ensemble. Children’s director, Shawn Gulyas is to be commended for the quality of their performance which is on a par with that of their elders in every respect.  Through acting and song, movement and dance, they reach out as only children can, reflecting the hope and optimism of childhood and mirroring the moral of this story that it’s never too late to start again.

A Christmas Carol runs through December 28th at the Pabst Theater. 414-224-9490 or milwaukeerep.com.

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