The Great Lakes Theater production of ‘A Christmas Carol’ still dazzles after thirty years
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Great Lakes Theater’s production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol. What this means in practical terms is that you can at times find three generations of a family members attending a performance with some of the older members having seen the show numerous times. This is how popular that this Cleveland holiday tradition has become over the years and with good reason. Year after year the show has maintained an extremely high production level.
The curtain goes up on a Christmas Eve gathering of a turn of the century family as they take turns reading and reciting passages from the original edition of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
Master William (Ian Mc Laughlin or Avery Pyo) has been allowed to stay up past his bed time as the family members of Father (Nick Steen), Mother (Laura Welsh Berg), Miss Elizabeth (Kelsey Anne Brown), Master Richard (David Holbert), Miss Abigail (Sun-Hee Smith), Master Robert (Chase Christopher Zadd) and Miss Polly (Brenna Sherman) sing carols and share the Dickens’ classic.
Soon Master Williams mind begins to wander as he imagines their butler (Lynn Robert Berg) as the main character, Ebeneezer Scrooge and members of his own family as the Cratchits with him as Tiny Tim.
Seven years to the day of his partner’s death, Ebeneezer is visited by his partner’s ghost who warns that his skinflint days are numbered and that he had best reform. To reinforce the lesson three ghosts in the form of Christmas Past (Patrick John Kiernan), Christmas Present (Alex Syiek) and Christmas Future (Patrick John Kiernan) appear individually to Scrooge and take him on various journeys to show him the error of his ways and the means to redeem himself.
In all, five superb actors have played the Great Lakes Theater pivotal role of Ebeneezer Scrooge (William Leech 1989-1995, John Woodson 1996, Dudley Swetland 1997-2007, Aled Davies 2008-2015 and Lynn Robert Berg 2016 to present). This is a heavy mantel to bear with all the tradition attached yet Lynn Robert Berg does a marvelous job in the role. He brings out all of the rich nuances of a man who is transformed in front of our eyes from a morally bankrupted crusty old codger to a champion of the down trodden and friend to all. The shared role of Master William/Tiny Tim (on the night I saw it it was played by Ian McLaughlin) carried all the counter points to Scrooge’s initially grim character.
Each and every role is acted with aplomb as this very believable story is played out year after year. The costuming by James Scott is exquisite, the all important lighting design by Mary Jo Donlinger and Cynthia Stillings sets every mode from whimsical to downright frightening, the sound balance was crystal clear and the original dance choreography by David Shimotakahara (Executive Artistic Director of GroundWorks Dance Theater) adds a truly festive air to the show. Most important is the Scenic Design by John Ezell and Gene Emerson Friedman that is ingenious in its complexity with moving sets, trap doors, spectacular scenes and a judicious use of fog.
This is a show that is a must see for the entire family and should be a part of a yearly holiday tradition for all residents of Northeast Ohio. If you have never seen the show or have not seen it recently you owe yourself this holiday treat. It is one of those productions that no matter how many times you view it you still find yourself laughing and crying at the same time.
The Great Lakes Theater production of A Christmas Carol will be on stage in the Ohio Theatre through December 23, 2018. Tickets may be purchased on line at https://www.greatlakestheater.org/, by phone at (216) 241-5490 or at the Playhouse Square Ticket Office located in the outer lobby of the State Theatre at Public Square.