Encore Michigan

Wayne State’s ‘Scrooge’ delivers Dickens with exceptional production

Review December 01, 2018 David Kiley

A Christmas Carol is pretty much the most familiar story in the western theater. And while Wayne State’s production stays pretty close to the story we know, and many love, the production values and acting in this effort performed at The Bonstelle Theater makes for as festive an experience as time traveling to a caroling stroll in Victorian England.

The cast, directed by Katie Campbell, is capable and delivers on the Dickens story adapted by John Wolf and Tom Aulino. But where this “Scrooge” really impresses is with the technical production overseen by John Keisling along with Ms. Campbell. The set design, lighting and projections design are among the best two or three efforts I have seen in five years and some 300 Michigan productions seen.

The set pieces, designed by Fred Florkowski, work splendidly as small buildings open up for interiors and spin to do double duty as the story moves from present to past back to present and then future. Projection design by Sarah Pearline animates snow on the city when called or, a moving clock and more. But where the projection design works so impressively is as the lighting and projections change the surfaces of the set buildings to move us back and forth in time and place, as well as helping is make the transition between the corporeal world and the spirit world.

John Wolf–executive producer, chair of the theater school and co-author of the adaptation–shows his stuff here as a splendid teacher of all phases of theater.

John Bergeron plays a solid Scrooge. It’s often difficult for a young actor to pull off a role like this credibly, but Bergeron handles it well, helped by good costuming by John Woodland and make-up. In a big cast like this with such familiar material, it is difficult to single out performances. Let us just say that the cast and ensemble as a whole are able to do their best work with such an impressive production design behind them.

It is a bit melancholy to see this fine work at The Bonstelle. Wayne State has announced that it will pull out of the former temple, built at the turn of the 20th century. The Beaux-Arts structure is influenced by Roman and Greek temples and is a totally unique structure along Woodward Avenue. Jesse Bonstelle bought the building in 1922 and had it converted to a theater. Word is that it requires to much remedial work to make it cost-efficient for the university.

If you like the Scrooge story, run over to this historic theater while you still can and get a hot chocolate in the neighborhood before or after the show. And as Tiny Tim likes to say…God bless us all. Everyone.

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Week of 12/10/2018

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