Encore Michigan

Meadow Brook’s Christmas Carol transforms us all with joyous holiday spirit

Review December 06, 2021 David Kiley

ROCHESTER, MI – You know things are returning to normal in theatre amidst this two-year public health debacle when Thomas Mahard and friends take the stage at The Meadow Brook to bring us the Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.

And I am a connoisseur of A Christmas Carol. Some families, when they get together at Christmas, talk about sports, politics, etc. My brothers and I, every year as if it is the first time, argue over film versions of A Christmas Carol–which is best?, how do we rank them?, who was the best Scrooge? It’s a madness in my family.

scroogeThomas D, Mahard, who has played Scrooge for many years, nails this stage version. On film, actors like Alastair Sim, George C. Scott and Albert Finney can use subtle gestures of the eyes and face to convey the old Dickensian miser who goes through a transformation and transfusion of kindness at the hands of the spirits. Mahard has developed pieces of business over the year that perfectly communicate his love of silver and gold and paper notes from his lending house, as well as the warm hearted jubilation he feels at the end of the Dickens story when he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim and takes the Cratchits under his wealthy wing. Counting the money without looking at it, with a pinch of comedic flair, is a great touch that is beautifully carried through to the Young Scrooge character to show how embedded the love of money is in his character.

The Meadow Brook has cast a wonderful group of experienced actors–familiar to many of us in Southeast Michigan–several of whom have been doing their parts for many years at the Oakland University campus venue. Anthony Guest plays Ghost of Christmas Present and Scott Anthony Joy plays Ghost of Christmas future and Young Scrooge. Stephen Blackwell plays the much put upon Bob Cratchitt.  It’s fun seeing fine actors inhabit multiple characters. Chip DuFord inhabits Old Fezziwig, the Undertaker and one of the Charity Men. Phil Powers is the other Charity Man and Old Joe. Katy Kujala is Belle and one of the carolers who opens the show.

The whole production is a well-oiled machine, no doubt owing to many years of putting it on. There is wonderful fog pouring out from everywhere, a seismic flash on Marley’s exit, and a grand set that turns and revolves to create several different environments–from Scrooge’s bedroom to the London street, Scrooge’s boyhood school and the Cratchit home in Camden Town. The costumes and chorus are perfect. I could practically smell the chestnuts roasting on the stage.

Director Terry W. Carpenter, lighting designer Reid G. Johnson, scenic designer Peter W. Hicks and costume designer Mary Pettinato all deserve great praise for bringing this annual production to the area with such polish and craft.

I saw A Christmas Carol on Black Friday. And shopping at the mall did not put me in the holiday spirit. That started during the gorgeous pre-show caroling by the ensemble on stage, especially when they sang “Hark The Herald Angels Sing,” (written by own ancestor Charles Wesley) and “Joy To The World” (my late father’s favorite song, not just his favorite Christmas Carol). I myself felt a bit transformed by the end of the show.

Editor’s Note: Incidentally, the definitive film version, indisputably, is the 1950 “Scrooge” with Alastair Sim. I will hear no nonsense about the Reginald Owen version from 1938. The George C. Scott version is second best. And that’s final. God Bless us all Everyone.

The Meadow Brook is not verifying COVID vaccinations, but does require masking while in the theatre. Get vaxxed!!!!!

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Week of 8/15/2022

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