Encore Michigan

Wayne State’s ‘Scrooge’ and ghosts inhabit haunted Bonstelle one last time

Review December 08, 2019 Patrice Nolan

DETROIT— The Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance at Wayne State University summons Dickens’ classic Christmas ghosts to the historic Bonstelle Theatre for a thoroughly delightful holiday entertainment. We all know the story of Scrooge, who is granted a shot at redemption guided by three spirits who visit on a chilly Christmas Eve. The tale just doesn’t grow old — and we all benefit from this seasonal appeal to our better angels and the reminder that “mankind is our business.”

This refreshing adaptation of A Christmas Carol by John Wolf, Chair of the Maggie Allesee Department of Theatre and Dance, and  theatre veteran Tom Aulino, was first staged at the Bonstelle in 2016 and has enjoyed brilliant success in subsequent seasons. By editing the story to fit within a brisk 75-minute timeframe, skipping intermission, and starting the evening curtain at 7 p.m., the show becomes much more accessible to those with short attention spans and early bedtimes. Note, however, that this Christmas Carol is not for little ones — the characters speak with appropriate and well-trained dialects and some of the ghosts are truly scary. It is all so delicious.

To help anchor the play in Dicken’s story while progressing the plot in quick sprints,  this version of A Christmas Carol relies on the character of a chipper Lamplighter-Narrator, played by Lani Call. Third-year MFA student John Bergeron returns to the role of Scrooge, bringing his plummy voice and a knack for making us care whether or not Ebenezer is reformed. This show boasts a huge ensemble that is to be commended for its tight, thoroughly engaging performance: Quint Mediate (Fred), Emily Braun (Mrs. Fred), Ace Thuma (Laundress), Jacob Lipski (Bob Cratchit), Camden Maccagnone (Mr. Fezziwig), Miranda Cole (Mrs. Cratchit), Emma Orr (Ghost of Christmas Past), Layton Gonsalez (Tiny Tim), Tyler Black (Marley’s Ghost/Old Joe), Quinn Hysni (Apprentice Scrooge), Gillian Marshell (Belle), Allie Farmer (Chairwoman), Jeremiah Boglin (Ghost of Christmas Present), Amanda S. Kennedy (Lady 1/Partier 1), Anna Marie Bethune (Fruit Seller), Brittney Holliday (Mrs. Fezziwig), Gabe Brinkley (Toy Seller/Man 1/ Topper), Isabel Luther (Fan), Jacob Wilson (Gravedigger), Joshua Poppink (Dick), Kylie Ann Stone (Martha), Mary Zoran (Belinda), Melissa Figliuolo (Caroline), Michael Danaj (Peter Cratchit), Naci Carter (Charity 1), Nicholas Guevara (Caroline’s Husband), Paige Heath (Flower Seller), Reilly Kerrigan (Charity 2), Samantha Stafford (Lady 2/Partier 2), Abby Bolas (Street Kid/Street Urchin/William), Adriana Farrugia (Matchstick Girl/Zachariah/Street Urchin/Want), Olivia McClelland (Benjamin/Street Urchin/Ignorance), and Parker Watson (Young Scrooge/Street Urchin/Turkey Boy).  

This production, directed by Dave Davies, is briskly paced and manages to pack a lot of storytelling into each scene. This is largely owing to the dazzling scenic design by Fred Florkowski, which is animated through lighting and video projection and amplified by music and sound design. The center portion of the set is designed as a two-story turntable and, as it spins, panels open and close while projection changes the face of the structures to suit the story. We see falling snow reflected in the windowpanes. Gas lamps magically line the streets. The twinkling Ghost of Christmas Past flies through a whirling blizzard, with Scrooge in tow, to reach his troubled boyhood. When the Ghost of Christmas Present waves his holly branch, the spirit of goodwill visibly sparkles across the scenery. And when the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come appears, it is every bit as spooky as Dickens intended. There is still more to charm your eyes. The period costumes and are beautiful and varied. There is lovely singing of Victorian carols and group dancing at Fezziwig’s ball. This is theatre spectacle that earns our attention.

The design and production team who help make the magic happen includes: Trever Wilson (Stage Manager), Megan Lewis (Assistant Stage Manager), CJ Caldwell (Assistant Stage Manager), Jae Clinton (Assistant Stage Manager), Alexandria Sczotka (Costume Designer), Michael Barnes (Dialect Coach), John Wolf (Lighting Designer), Chante Randle (Associate Lighting Designer), Chante Randle (Master Electrician), Ben Geibel (Marketing Lead), Rachael Rose (Music Director), Sarah Pearline (Projections Designer), Matthew Taylor (Projections Engineer), Kaden Reynard (Property Master), Beth Lake (Sound Designer), Kade Kriewell (Assistant Sound Designer), and John Keisling (Technical Director).

This year marks the final staging of A Christmas Carol at the historic Bonstelle Theatre because restoration is underway as part of the new Gateway Center for the Performing Arts project at WSU. It’s worth your time to catch this production while you can. It is a great way to get yourself into the Christmas spirit — all three of them.

Click here for show and ticket details.

Read more about A Christmas Carol 12/04–12/15

Read more about Hilberry Theatre

Week of 8/10/2020

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