Great Lakes Theater’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ once again delivers
This holiday season, Great Lakes Theater celebrates the 35th annual production of Gerald Freedman’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 825,000 audience members have witnessed this classic tale of downfall and redemption on stage in the Mimi Ohio Theatre. It is at a point that children who saw the show so many years ago have brought their own children to share this tradition who in turn have brought their own offspring. It is a true multi-generational experience.
There is a simple reason why year after year the company manages to fill the theater even when opening night falls on Black Friday. It is simply that good. The stage setting shifts back and forth from simplistic to amazingly complex. Each and every actor is well versed in their part and work as an ensemble. The sound effects add a new dimension to the show this year with some funny bits thrown in. The lighting sets the perfect mood for each scene. Lastly, the timeless story is uplifting and feel good to the extreme. It is just like a favorite book that you reread numerous times or a movie you watch over and over. You do it because you enjoy it.
It begins with the Cleaveland family consisting of Father (Nick Steen), Mother (Jillian Kates), Miss Elizabeth (Avery Elledge), Master Richard (Jeremy Alden), Miss Abigail (Edith Foley), Master Robert (Jackson Kalina), Miss Polly (Morgan Lehman) and Master William (Fin Haselswerdt/Kyra Rodenborn) gathering for their annual Christmas Eve gathering near the hearth for the singing of carols, the drinking of scrumptious hot cocoa and the reading of the Charles Dickens classic with each child repeating their favorite lines. New to the group is young Master Williams who has thwarted Samuels the butler (Lynn Robert Berg) efforts to get the youngster to bed. “Marley was dead, to begin with.” Thus the story begins with at times Master William’s imagination transporting him into the thick of the scene.
In this well worn story, Ebeneezer Scrooge (Lynn Robert Berg) is quickly framed as a money pitching curmudgeon who pays his clerk near starvation wages, refuses to participate in the annual fund raising drive to alleviate suffering, spurns his Nephew Fred’s (Joe Wegner) demonstration of holiday cheer, shoulders his way through the happy holiday shoppers with his soul-less eyes locked forward and whose life is as dull and tasteless as the gruel he eats every night for dinner.
He is visited by the chain encumbered ghost of his long dead partner, Jacob Marley (David Anthony Smith) who gives dyer warning that the same fate of link imprisonment awaits his former partner. To emphasize the point he reveals that Scrooge will be visited by three spirits. They are the ghost of Christmas Past (Angela Utrera), the ghost of Christmas Present (Jason Eno) and the ghost of Christmas Future (Keaton Miller). The three spirits in short order show Scrooge the error of his ways, what he is currently missing in life and the grim future he faces for all for his misery ways.
As mentioned previously, this is a superb performance of the highest caliber. It is a perfect evening of theater that has enticed generations of theater goers since 1988. The story begins slowly as it sets the story and slowly builds to a wonderfully delightful climax. Lynn Robert Berg is fantastic in his duel roles of Samuels and Scrooge allowing his change of heart to develop naturally. David Anthony Smith is perfectly scary as Jacob Marley, roaming the stage and using his chains for emphasis. The use of stage fog is especially well done as gaps in the mists allows you to clearly see the action. The rest of the actors are well sited in their duel roles of members of the Cleaveland and Cratchit families. The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are in turns reminiscent, joyful and downright scary.
No matter how many times you have seen this show it is still worth seeing once again with those you love. It is a touchstone of Christmas comfort and joy that we all need this frantic time of the year. Take a much needed break from the hubbub of the holidays and share this experience with those closet to you. It is a tradition well worth beginning.
The Great Lakes Theater production of “A Christmas Carol” will be on stage in the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio through December 23, 2023. For more information and to purchase tickets go to https://www.greatlakestheater.org/ or call (216) 241-6000.