Clague Playhouse’s ‘Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol’ is a fun rework of a classic
The season is upon us and this year a new precedent was achieved. An entire week prior to Halloween I received an e-mail for a Black Friday Sale from a local tool store (nothing says Christmas like a 4 Ton Floor Jack or a shiny new welder’s helmet). The reason I mention this is because each year Christmas seems to come a little earlier whether we want it to or not. We notice the first few commercial flakes in the air that are harbingers of the media blizzard that will soon engulf us all.
In the arts it is time for a half a dozen companies to wheel out their “unique” version of “ELF”, A Christmas Carol and “Nutcracker”. By mid-December I am having visions of sugar plums dancing in my head...PLEASE MAKE IT STOP! Yet all is not lost. There are some companies that go out of their way to find something new and intriguing to entertain us during the holidays.
A prime example is Clague Playhouse’s production of Tom Mula’s “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol”. It has an interesting premise. Did you ever wonder about the fate of Ebeneezer's partner in crime. In “A Christmas Carol” we get only a brief glimpse of the character. This thoughtful rewrite expands the role and tells the whole story in Marley’s struggle to redeem his surviving partner, Ebeneezer Scrooge.
The play begins with the familiar reading of “Marley was dead, et cetera, et cetera and et cetera ending with...Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.” He has been cast into hell where even he admits he belongs. Traveling the length of a long hallway, Jacob Marley (Brian Altman) finds himself in the office of the underworld’s record keeper (Andrew Keller). He is shown what his immortal fate will be as chains, cash boxes and ledgers are piled onto his thin frame...but he is also given a chance to redeem himself.
He must go back to earth and convince Ebeneezer Scrooge (Anne McEvoy) the error of his ways. At first, Marley is overwhelmed with the very thought of the task. This is, after all...Scrooge, the man who taught Marley everything he knows about taking advantage. Jacob’s first thought is to plead with the record keeper to simply stay in hell for eternity as it is a much better prospect than the task they have in mind.
With the aid of a Bogle (Jeanne Madison) Jacob must come up with a plan to change Scrooge’s ways or he, Jacob Marley will be condemned to wonder the earth forever in chains and other acrutements. For those familiar with the Charles Dicken’s classic you will be delighted with the way this new rendition dovetails with the original.
As for the cast, they are phenomenal. All are experienced local actors who are very familiar to theater goers in northeast Ohio. Brian Altman is a superb Jacob Marley, developing the character to fully embrace the spirit of the play. Anne McEvoy as Scrooge fights tooth and nail against changing his ways, even going as far as justifying his methods of business. He is up against powers far more powerful than he can even imagine. These powers are convinced that they can in fact change him for the better. Jeanne Madison is spritely as the Bogle (a Scottish version of an elf). Andrew Keller is tasked with multiple roles along with stage duty and he fills each one with aplomb.
There are scant props in this production (gathered by Diana D’Alessandro) which are an advantage for it gives the audience the chance to use their imaginations to the fullest. The production is brightly directed by Jonathan Wilhelm who allows the cast plenty of room to expand the fantasy. Sly Robakowski handles the sparkling lighting duties and Lisa L. Wiley designed the superb sound. Meg Parish outfits the characters in period costumes helping to make the show even more believable.
If you have become jaded by the yearly renditions of “the same old same old” then you owe it to yourself to see an entirely different take on a Christmas classic. This is superb acting with plenty of room for your imagination to take flight as we learn “the other side of the tale”. Bring the entire family for an enjoyable evening of fine community theater.
The Clague Playhouse production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” will be on stage at 1371 Clague Road, Westlake, Ohio through December 3, 2023. For more information go to www.clagueplayhouse.org or cal (440) 331-0403.
It is time for the Clague Playhouse annual Jewelry Heist being held for its 14th year. This delightful fundraiser offers hundreds of items for sale in the theater’s lobby. Items such as donated costume jewelry of bracelets, necklaces, earrings, and pins as well as watches, purses, scarves and furs are there for your perusal. There is also a collection of men’s bracelets, cuff links, tie clasps and ties. All purchases are by your donation and will be held during the entire run of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” through December 3, 2023. The Jewelry Heist is open prior to performances on Thursday, Friday and Sunday as well as on Saturdays from 1:00 to 9:00 p.m. New items are added with each performance.