Theatre Review

Trinity’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ fresh & magical after 40 years

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I have been reviewing Trinity Rep’s “A Christmas Carol” every year for the past 40 years, and I always find something new and original from the director and the actor portraying Scrooge. I have marveled at portrayals by the late Richard Kneeland, Timothy Crowe, Brian McEleney, Anne Scurria…the list goes on and on.

And then there is Joe Wilson Jr., one of Trinity’s true treasures, who has dug deep and found a fresh approach to one of the theatre’s greatest roles. The directors (Yes, there are two: Angela Brazil and Stephen Thorne) have found a way to keep the tradition of Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming alive, while breathing a lot of fresh air into the production.

I can’t remember the play being done in the round, although it usually spreads out into and over the audience. Brazil/Thorne make it work to their advantage with a couple of overhead surprises and lots of trap doors. The scenes shift from colorful to dark, complete with singing, dancing, snow, a bell choir and some pretty scary “Christmas Yet To Come” spirits.

Anne Scurria sets the tone with her sprightly Ghost of Christmas Past, and newcomer Orlando Hernandez does some dazzling tap moves as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

This year there’s only a Mrs. Fezziwig (and daughters) with Rachael Warren filling the role and adding her beautiful voice in many other spots. The Turkey Boy is a girl this year, and she is delightful. There are two casts of children. We saw Sofia Borges in the red cast.

Standouts also include Rebecca Gibel as Scrooge’s laundress and John Nobel Barrack as Bob Cratchit. The Cratchit family doesn’t get as much stage time as previous productions, with a couple of familiar scenes cut or shortened.

Added to all the pluses in this production is the performance of Joe Wilson Jr. as Scrooge. I admit that I have never seen a “bad” Scrooge at Trinity, but I’ve never seen one who completely caught the essence of the bitter old miser as we watch his transformation and redemption. Laughing and crying are two difficult challenges for any actor, and Joe transitions them in a scene that defines his acting talents.

Artistic Director Curt Columbus added a new dimension to this year’s production by engaging 18 non-profit groups to blend into the finale with a rousing and inspirational carol sing at the end. Each group will perform in three shows, with each adding their own touch. And Tiny Tim (Joshua Pacheco or Lyndsie Lapierre) is there to “God Bless Us Everyone.”

“A Christmas Carol” continues at Trinity through New Year’s Eve. If this production doesn’t get you in the holiday spirit, nothing will. Call 351-4242 for reservations.

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