By Daniel Skora
Meadow Brook Theatre is celebrating its 35th year presenting the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol”. The original adaptation and staging by Charles Nolte has become an annual holiday favorite with audiences, and this year Meadow Brook has scheduled over three dozen performances of the show. If you’ve somehow managed to escape seeing one of the 1,200 plus performances that have taken place over the years and wonder how a show can have such longevity, the answer is simple: this is one beautiful, entertaining, festive treat that’s been honed to perfection and is filled with all of the drama, excitement, and spectacle that Dickens poured into his little 1843 Christmas book.
The show is anchored by the MB’s large and colorful set (Peter W. Hicks). The set is big enough to encompass the whole of a 19th Century London street along with the two-story building that contains Scrooge’s counting house on the first floor and the bedroom of his residence on the second. The building rotates on the huge Meadow Brook turntable to reveal the exterior of the building on the other side. In addition, the main set is augmented by trap doors and several auxiliary sets. For a look at a stop action video from a few years back of the set being assembled, click HERE.
The cast is excellent and is always blessed with a good number of returnees, giving the show a continuation from year to year. This year, Thomas D. Mahard is recording his 31st year with the show, the last eight as Ebenezer Scrooge. Sara Catheryn Wolf has done 16 seasons as Spirit of Christmas Past and Charwoman. Other returning “Carolers” include Jean Lyle Lepard (Mrs. Cratchit), Tobin Hissong (Bob Cratchit), Mark Rademacher (Ghost of Jacob Marley and Spirit of Christmas Present), Phil Powers (Second Charity Man and Old Joe), Rusty Mewha (Spirit of Christmas Future), and Chip DuFord (Charity Man and Undertaker). The cast of over three dozen includes many area school children. This year, Ari Bigelman and Christopher Collin Graff alternate in the role of Tiny Tim.
The costumes (by Mary Pettinato) are gorgeous, and that brilliant red and green scarf that nephew Fred gives every year to Scrooge as a Christmas present is back again and could easily serve as the show’s iconic image. In addition, other niceties you can expect include fog, (this is London, after all), caroling a half hour before curtain time, and a rousing jolt of pyrotechnics just to make sure no one’s got into a fog of their own.
“A Christmas Carol” is truly a lavish production that children and parents and grandparents alike will love. This reviewer and his family have made Meadow Brook’s “A Christmas Carol” a part of their holiday tradition for every one of the last 25 years and quite honestly, it wouldn’t feel like Christmas without it. Treat yourself and your loved ones to this very special holiday experience and start your own tradition if you haven’t already.
“A Christmas Carol” is directed and stage managed by Terry W. Carpenter. Lighting is by Reid G. Johnson, sound comes courtesy of Mike Duncan, and original choreography is by Jan Puffer. As an acknowledgement of some of the many other talents that go into making a show of such magnitude the success that it is as well as giving recognition to those who are often left out of a review, I congratulate: Matthew Croft (Choral Director); Caitlin Burke (Choral Arrangements); Ann Acheson (Dance Mistress); Lynnae Lehfeldt (Dialect Coach); Sarah Lin Warren (Assistant Stage Manager); and last but certainly not least Travis W. Walter (Artistic Director) and Cheryl L. Marshall (Managing Director). The show runs through December 23rd. Tickets are available by calling the Meadow Brook box office at 1.248.377.3300 or going online at www.ticketmaster.com. Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in the city of Rochester.