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A Christmas Carol (2009)

a Holiday Special
by Adapted by Tony Brown from the Charles Dickens story

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3605

SHOWING : November 27, 2009 - December 23, 2009



Our heartwarming and intimate rendition of A Christmas Carol is back! Join us as we celebrate the season with Scrooge, Cratchit, Marley and three ghosts. Full of music and laughter, love and family, this show is designed to put you in the holiday Spirit! We bring it back every year as a gift to you and yours.

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Telling the Story
by Dedalus
Friday, December 18, 2009
(Note: This Review first appeared on

As stop two on my 2009 Scrooge-a-palooza tour, I wended my way to the Shakespeare Tavern for the requisite Cream-Cheese Brownie and story-centric retelling of everyone’s favorite Dickens story (pipe down all you “Cricket on the Hearth” fanatics!). This was my second Tavern “Carol,” and it holds up just as well as expected, though, this year, I noticed a few minor tempo lapses and moments of dis-concentration on the part of some of the cast.

Adapted and directed by Tony Brown, this version takes a “Nicholas Nickleby” approach – a troupe of “storytellers” share narration duties and slip into and out of a multitude of characters with a flick of a costume piece, an adjusted posture, an altered voice. The standard Tavern set has been decorated simply, but still with a Victorian flair. Live musicians carol us (and each other), and the story flows like a stream of stuffing from a goose.

Anchoring the entire affair is Drew Reeves’ umpty-umpth foray into Scrooge. This is a Scrooge who takes enormous delight in his miserliness, almost a lip-smacking joy in making peoples’ lives miserable. It’s an approach I hadn’t seen before, and it worked. It added a new layer of subtext to the “Christmas Past” scenes, in that we see not Scrooge’s regret on how he treated everyone, but his regret in the joy he took in that maltreatment. Coming so soon after Mr. Reeve’s unrepentantly nasty Richard III, it was a nice study in contrast and range.

The storytellers are universally skilled, creating sharp characterizations and voices that are as vivid as they are accurate. None stand out from each other; all stand out when compared to other ensembles. Just to give credit where it’s due, good job to Andrew Houchins, Paul Hester, Rivka Levin, Becky Cormier Finch, Matt Felten, Kirk Harris Seaman, Mary Ruth Ralston, and Clarke Weigle. They also carol very well together. For some reason, this year, the number of songs at the top of the show did not come across as so much “padded fill,” but as an extended “setting of the mood.” I think knowing that they were going to be there mitigated the “let’s the story going” frustration I felt last year.

As to the “disconcentration” moments I cited above, I won’t name names, but I did notice some points where a combination of rushed lines and laggard cues bespoke a “phone it in” quality, but, these moments were rare and possibly owed more to my brownie-besotted Attention Span to any actual lapses on the parts of the cast. When all is said and done, this production appeals to my Dickensophilia, to my fondness for Readers Theatre tropes, and to my appreciation of skilled performers who can create a world in my imagination.

I daresay other “Christmas Carols” will take a more traditional approach (or, in the Alliance’s case, more grandiose). I daresay I will find them equally compelling.

But, to see this Storyteller’s adaptation is to remind us that, especially to us skeptics and cynics, Story is the real appeal of this season, of this tale, of this venue.

As last year, this production is anything but Humbug!

-- Brad Rudy (



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