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Great Lakes Theater’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ still warms the heart

Suddenly out of nowhere we are once again smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. Somehow it just seems to sneak up on us like “Has it been a year already?” It is that time of year for family and the coming together for feasting and frolicking. One Cleveland tradition has been the continuation of Great Lakes Theater’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” This year marks the 34th time that this show has been staged and it is better than ever.

I for one have seen it more times than I can remember yet each year I find myself lured back to view it once again. Perhaps it is the heart warming story of redemption that gives us faith that even the coldest of hearts can be warmed once again, or it may be the outstanding acting that Great Lakes Theater is so famous for. It could even be the elaborate set and costumes that take our breath away as well as the wonderful music. For many it may just be the sum of all the elements that bring families back to the Mimi Ohio Theatre year after year.

The show begins with the gathering of the Cleaveland family on Christmas Eve for carol singing and the reading of the classic Christmas tale. As Mother Cleaveland weaves the tale the children repeat their favorite parts including “Marley was as dead as a door nail.” As the story is told the action turns to center stage as Ebenezer Scrooge (a name once used as a synonym for miser and a quick step away from miserable) shows his disgust for (what he sees as) frivolous holiday wastefulness.

Scrooge turns away good gentlemen attempting to collect for the poor. He gripes about having his pocket picked by his sole employee Bob Cratchit for taking a single day off during the entire year. He brusquely shoulders his way through the throngs of merry makers on his way to his drab dwellings. He is a sad specimen of humanity. Once home he settles down before a meager fire for a meal of gruel. It is then that a Christmas miracle begins as he is visited by his old partner’s ghost, Jacob Marley who is weighed down by the chains he forged during life by not having a forgiving and charitable spirit.

Marley warns Ebenezer that an even worse fate awaits him if he does not repent and change. Jacob then announces that Ebenezer will be visited by three ghosts, Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future who will attempt to show Scrooge the error of his ways over the course of the next three days. Marley departs in a cloud of mist and fog and soon the first spirit appears to begin the lessons.

The cast of Great Lakes Theater always seem to bring a special magic to this production. Lynn Robert Berg is simply stellar as Scrooge throwing himself into the roll as first the nastiest person in town who is slowly transformed into a true believer and holder of the Christmas Spirit. The entire Cleaveland family works well as a unified unit during the singing and storytelling sequence. The role of Tiny Tim is split between Sutton Garver and Parker Towns who play it equally well. Of special note is Joe Wegner as Nephew Fred who has a delightfully infectious stage presence that fills everyone with the true spirit of the holidays. One of the big stars of the show is the scenic design by John Ezell and Gene Emerson Friedman using some of the same material as designed by Gerald Freedman for the very first production. James Scott does wonders with the costuming keeping with the Victorian era theme. David Shimotakahara does a sparkling job as choreographer with the period dance pieces. The sound design by Tom Mardikes and Stan Kozak and the lighting design by Mary Jo Dondlinger and Jeff Herrmann perfectly sets the various moods for the show.

This is the kind of show that is a touchstone tradition for many Cleveland families and with good reason. Each season it seems just as fresh as it can be. Many in the audience will find themselves with something in their eye. Don’t be a Scrooge, come join the fun!

The Great Lakes Theater production of “A Christmas Carol” will be on stage at the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square through December 23, 2022. For more information and to order tickets go to or call (216) 241-6000.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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