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By Dana Casadei
Posted: Nov. 26, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.
The story of Tiny Tim and Ebenezer Scrooge is one that's been done time and time again. Everyone from Walt Disney to your local high school has done some rendition of the show, but nestled on Oakland University's campus in Rochester is a gem that would have made Charles Dickens himself proud.
Meadow Brooke Theatre's two-hour production, with adaptation written by Charles Nolte and direction by Terry Carpenter, is the same story we know and love. This is the 31st time it's been staged, proving things only get better with age.
Thomas D. Mahard returns to the stage as the greedy man, bringing a spark of viciousness, and at times one of humor to the title role. In one role or another, Mahard has been in over 1,000 performances of Meadow Brook's "A Christmas Carol," and he plays Scrooge with such giddiness and excitement that you would think this was his first time. There are moments when you can tell that an actor truly loves the role he's playing, and this is one of them.
As for the rest of the cast there are a few standouts, even next to Mahard's very large shoes.
Tiny Tim, played by Jack Sanitate on opening night, is adorable, and when he says "God bless us, everyone," get ready to smile, or cry, or in my case both. (The role is alternately played by Nathan Koss.)
Tiny Tim's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Bob Cratchit, Tobin Hissong and Jean Lyle Lepard, respectively, also stand out in a cast of over two dozen. Hissong and Lepard have been playing the couple together for the past five years, and it shows. They have an ease and comfort together that can only come from knowing someone for some time.
Carpenter's direction is one that's all about moments, whether they be big, grand ones, like a dance scene, or simple ones. Carpenter makes each one seem just as important to the story as the last, and turns others that could have been stale into anything but.
Take, for instance, the entrances of Scrooge's ghosts. All are done in a way that you don't see coming, utilizing the set in ways other directors may not have.
There's also a scene where the Cratchit family is sitting down to Christmas dinner, that simply put, is lovely. There's something about the simplicity of a happy, yet poor, family sitting down to eat dinner, singing "Silent Night"; it could have been passed off as just another scene, but it's not here; it's breathtaking.
The work that scenic designer Peter Hicks and costume designer Mary Pettinato created is also breathtaking to see. Both the set and costumes are of Tony-winning value and would be able to make even the most famous designers drool at their authenticity.
"A Christmas Carol" is a story that will be around, well, probably forever. Hopefully Meadow Brooke's production will be one that stays around for some time as well, aging like a fine cheese or a good red wine.
SHOW DETAILS: "A Christmas Carol" continues at Meadow Brook Theatre, 2200 N. Squirrel Rd., Rochester, Thursday-Sunday through Dec. 23, and every Wednesday beginning Dec. 5; plus Tuesday, Dec. 18. Running time: 2 hours. Tickets: $17-$40. For information: 248-377-3300 or www.mbtheatre.com.
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