Theatre Review: CATCO’s A Christmas Carol a not to miss holiday treat
It feels all too familiar. December, Christmas time, and here comes A Christmas Carol. Everyone knows the story, this timeless tale, but sometimes (probably once a year), we can use a retelling—especially since more people seem to become Scrooges as Christmas becomes exponentially expensive. CATCO’s current offering then feels like a welcomed treat.
CATCO’s adaptation presents the story in a unique manner that does not feel too different from traditional tellings. However, it does use a stunning chorus comprised of Emily Turner, Japheal Bondurant, and Ben Hartwig. The trio, with music direction by Matt Clemens, leads smooth transitions with cheerful and, at times, haunting vocalizations of Christmas tunes.
Five other actors tell the story. Ken Erney plays a very human Ebeneezer Scrooge, one that feels real, although subtly insidious, without devolving into the Scrooge caricature. Four others: Ben Sostrom, Dani Mann, Liz Wheeler, and Matt Clemens fill in as other characters. Sostrom portrays a heartwrenching Bob Cratchit, as the love for his family and mild despondency over his job pulses from the stage. Mann plays a wildly vivacious and spritely Spirit of Christmas Present.
Director Joe Bishara creates wonderful pictures on the stage along with a well-paced show. As Scrooge sits in his dimly lit bedroom just prior to Marley’s initial visit, the tension builds as clanking chains crescendo and the Chorus sings an eerie holiday song. The image of that one moment really stands out, but despite the eerie aforementioned moments, the show still features much frivolity, cheer, and laughs.
Overall, this production features some great design. Michael S. Brewer’s modular set contains a wealth of detail and attention that one can take a full ten minutes pre-show just taking it all in. Doug Northeim’s varied and complex lighting choices create all the right moods. The costumes, designed by Marcia Hain, complete the details in a stunning way. Christine Hentz collects and designs an array of great props.
However, the favorite choice for the production comes from utilizing a marionette to play the parts of very young Ebeneezer and Tiny Tim. Local puppet designer, Tony Auseon, repurposed an old puppet to create the two characters. The marionette then has two different heads, one for each role, and costume changes, the effects of which prove ingenious, effective, comical and cute. Read more about that here.
A Christmas Carol naturally fits as a family favorite as well as a holiday favorite. This two act production proves engaging enough that children can comfortably sit through it. A not to miss activity on your December to-do list.
A Christmas Carol plays through Dec. 22 at Studio One in the Vern Riffe Center, 77 S. High Street. General Admission is $41.00 on Thurs. and Sun.; $45.00 on Fri. and Sat. More information can be found online at www.catco.org.