As each year draws to an end, the holiday season brings a slew of broad societal rituals and personal family traditions. It has recently become my winter ritual to ignite my Christmas spirit by attending the Golden Performing Arts Center’s annual production of A Christmas Carol, presented at the Madrid Theatre. Kevin P. Kern’s adaptation of this Christmas classic was joyously rendered in a live production that was – dare I say it – better than the first time!
We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Anthony Cantrell). He is the wealthy businessman who knows neither compassion nor pity. Renowned for his selfish, Scrooge shuns all that is lighthearted and lives in virtual seclusion, thanks to his foul temperament and a self-imposed isolation, despite the best efforts of his nephew Fred (Adam Miller). However, it is the Christmas season, the whole good-will-towards-man-thing, which he finds especially intolerable.
One fateful Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by four ghosts. The first is his partner Jacob Marley (Palmer Scott), who warns him of the empty life he is leading and his impending dreadful afterlife, if Scrooge does not change. Next, Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Sayra Boerner), Present (Dimitri Toscas) and Future (Ian Watson). It is through this journey in time that Scrooge can finally make a true account of his place in the world, perhaps his purpose in life; and he is given the chance to change.
While Scrooge has his Spirits, the audience is guided through this winter’s tale by four fabulous carolers: Daniel Granof, Byron Jones, Tiffany Gray-Lenahan & Natalie Storrs. This enchanting quartet acts as the evening’s narrators. They are bookends, as well as the interconnecting musical threat of the story, singing a myriad of seasonal tunes which include Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Carol of the Bells and Winter Wonderland, just to name a few. And all in four part harmony no less.
Particularly strong performances were also given by performers new to the cast. Palmer Scott gives a remarkably impressive turn as both the grime ghost Jacob Marley and the ridiculously jocular Fezziwig. Dimitri Toscas and Stephan Stubbins also did their part, in smaller roles, to infuse Carol with a few new significant sparks. Finally, the supporting ensemble cast is smartly populated with seasoned actors and alumni of the Golden PAC family of teens and children who gave energetic, focused performances. Every performance, great and small truly felt in the moment.
Director Robert Petrarca has clearly raised the bar for himself, making notable strides in smoothing the rough edges of what was a forgivably clunky production in 2008. Aside from the revisions he has made to Kern’s adaptation, there are some lovely new touches - in both direction and design - that truly improve the overall pacing of the piece. There is a refinement in the show’s constantly morphing tone which now flows seamlessly from happy to haunting, from humorous to heartwarming. And I have always been a fan of Petrarca’s staging: from his smart, balanced style choices to the “simple” task of managing upwards of thirty onstage performers at any given time. Well done.
Congratulations to the cast of crew of ACC 2009. I can't wait to see how you will raise the bar for 2010.
Golden Performing Arts Center’s professional production of A Christmas Carol runs December 18 -20, 2009 at:
21622 Sherman Way
Canoga Park, CA 91303