Reviewed by Liz Clifford
In what is becoming a Cedar Springs holiday tradition, Terri Riggle has put on another fine rendition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Riggle is a longtime local thespian and for the last few years has delighted audiences by mounting very different versions of Dickens’ classic holiday story. This year’s Scrooge story featured what seemed to be a cast of thousands in a “black box” set. The black box technique uses minimal sets and props and, in fact, the action took place in front of a black wall with a very nice snowflake motif as its sole decoration. The actors’ dialogue, narration, sound effects, and the imaginations of the audience fill in the details. A Christmas Carol is a particularly good production for black box staging because it is so familiar to the audience and we all bring memories from past versions we have seen.
What we didn’t have to imagine were the costumes—they were excellent. The dresses, coats, hats, and gloves of the actors made me feel the chill of an Edwardian England winter and the ghosts were appropriately spartan and resplendent in turn thanks to wardrobe coordinator Merri Moore. And once she had the cast nicely costumed, Riggle and music director Carolee Cole made excellent use of them. Most of the actors appeared multiple times in speaking roles, as party guests, and as carolers. The roving group of carolers appeared several times in the play, but their presence was expanded to include songs before the show and during the intermission to great effect.
A Christmas Carol is essentially a series of vignettes—short stories told from multiple points of view—about Scrooge’s life and the way his choices have influenced the people around him. Everyone in the large cast had at least one moment to shine as they guided the audience through the happy, sad, and ominous events. The main characters were Virgil Hubbard as Scrooge, Bruce Bennett as his nephew Fred, Russ Cole as Bob Cratchit, Leah Woltanski as The Ghost of Christmas Past, Laura Johnson as The Ghost of Christmas Present, Jon Price as the silent and spooky Ghost of Christmas Future, and Scott Phillips as Jacob Marley.
The audience particularly enjoyed the humorous scene featuring Judy Schultz, Eva Walter, Tom Noreen, and Cody Eldred, in which Scrooge’s laundress, housekeeper, and undertaker are selling the items they stole from his house and corpse. Everyone laughed at Hubbard’s jubilant Scrooge when he awoke to find that he hadn’t missed Christmas and had a chance at redemption after all.
The large cast included Cedar Springs stage veterans and newcomers we hope will appear again: Mary Unger, Kathy McFarlane, Tom Johnson, Elizabeth White, Caleb Rhoads, Jordan Price, Tammy Price, Danielle VanDyke, Bri Fredrickson, Mystic Walter, Katie Zank, Grace Price, Andrew Woltanski, Jade Wight, Kathleen Hubbard, Tammy Reagan, BreAnna Schultz, Michael Nind, Char Hagenow, Carolee Cole, Chris Bigney, and narration by Megan Maddocks. Backstage support was also provided by Jennifer Nind, Jeanette Kibble, and Kellie Hoerner.
All in all, it was a delightful production, and I am already looking forward to A Christmas Carol 2012.