TEEN AMBASSADOR: LUCY SCHWARTZ | DECEMBER 12, 2015
I’ll admit that as I settled into my seat before the show, I couldn’t help having thoughts of hesitancy. I have been in a word, overexposed to the story, A Christmas Carol. I’ve seen it twice for school field trips, was a techie for my school’s own production of the show, and have seen the movie multiple times (the Noel Langley 1951 version, not even Disney’s with Jim Carrey). Each rendition, from one to the next, has essentially appeared the same to me. Lines delivered with stoicism, Scrooge hates everything, three ghosts visit him, he has a revelation, and they all live happily ever after.
But that’s not what I saw in this show. A Christmas Carol, presented by the Nebraska Theatre Company, was a show of beauty, morality, and holiday joy. It was the company’s 37th year performing the show and 33rd year at the Zeiterion. Directed by Ablan Roblin and Kimberly Faith Hickman, A Christmas Carol, was transformed on stage by the help of snow, scenery overflowing with verisimilitude, extravagant and meticulous costumes, and a hammed up stage presence.
An all star cast took over the spotlight one at a time. Ebenezer Scrooge (Chad Bradford) was given a touch lighter of a personality, not by being less frugal, but by having a more comical presence amongst the children of the show. No doubt this was done to gain the focus of the audience’s young demographic, as this is supposed to be a family friendly show. Dan Chevalier performed the co-lead of Bob Cratchit, Ebenezer’s counterpart and father of beloved “Tiny” Tim Cratchit, with a level of sentimentality that resonated with viewer while replacing some of the fearfulness for Scrooge with a twist of playfulness.
As the story progresses and the audience is drawn into Dickens’ classic tale, the Ghost of Christmas Past (Jessica Bradley) and the Ghost of Christmas Present (Michael Heath) act as benevolent forces to sway Scrooge’s selfish behavior. Bradley infused the GCPast with a bubbly, playful persona, becoming the epitome of Christmas cheer. Heath donned a Saint Lucia crown and by the powers of stage magic, a skillfully tailored costume, and favorably tall genetics, cloaked himself in the character of the booming, wise GCPresent.
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come was played 90% by a hulking, invasive manmade figure (my estimate is around 20 feet?) and 10% by a fog machine (for ambience purposes, of course). It was an artistic choice to assign the part of GCYTC to an inanimate object rather than cast a live actor, but it was effective. I felt that this ghost in particular brought the true harshness of reality to Scrooge’s eyes, where the other ghosts failed with their merry and kindhearted ways.
Lastly, something must be said for stage manager Shelby Glasgow. The mood production for each scene, from the rise of the curtain revealing snow falling down on townspeople caroling, to the closing scene in the Cratchit home, can be accredited to her. Without the elegant lighting and ornate scenery in Fred and Millie’s home or the provincial shop fronts and iron gate in the town square, the production would be lacking the critical donnée that rightfully belongs in the 19th century.
While written and taking place a few centuries before present time, A Christmas Carol, is a timeless tale, one of which that teaches the meaning of value, gratitude, and generosity. I used to think I was done with this seasonal story, but now I can only hope that the Nebraska Theatre Caravan will return next December for their 34th year at the Zeiterion.