‘A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas’
Through Dec. 30
511 10th Street, NW
Not yet in the holiday spirit? Then make a beeline to Ford’s Theatre for a jolt of yuletide cheer.
Ford’s has been presenting Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic since 1979, but for the last several years it’s been retelling the Scrooge story with an especially entertaining and timely adaptation by Michael Wilson titled “A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas.”
Adeptly staged by gay director Michael Baron, this version is spookier than previous productions with its haunted house effects (spinning bed, talking portrait, booming thunderclaps and flashes of lighting); but it’s also merrier. The show begins with happy 19th century Londoners ambling through the historic theater, welcoming audience members. Baron has also added song and dance including familiar carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “O Christmas Tree” and “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” And the holiday bash at the Fezziwigs’ (a pleasant memory from Scrooge’s youth) is a lively dance number led by a terrific Rick Hammerly as the jolly host.
But the heart of this “A Christmas Carol” is Edward Gero’s marvelous portrayal of that formidable miser whose icy heart is melted after nocturnal visitors open his eyes to the joys of the season. His Scrooge’s gradual transformation from miserable misanthrope to generous, joyous uncle, feels wholly believable.
As the kindly and elegant Ghost of Christmas Past, Felcia Curry floats above the stage, the dazzling incarnation of a sparkly little marionette seen earlier in the London marketplace. Other ghosts include James Konicek as Scrooge’s long dead friend and business partner Jacob Marley, Jane Stone as the saucy and straight shooting Ghost of Christmas Present and a floating silent specter (Curry again) as the terrifying Ghost of Christmas future.
Set designer Lee Savage supplies a soaring Victorian iron structure inspired by London’s Convent Garden marketplace and dominated by an imposing clock that portentously marks the comings and goings of Scrooge’s ghostly visitors. Alejo Vietti expertly costumes the cast in period top hats, bonnets, hoop skirts and night shirts — all that we’ve come to associate with strolling carolers and late night Christmas tales.
Wilson’s script is relevantly witty, sometimes a little darkly so: When raising a glass, old Scrooge makes a toast to “a quick foreclosure.” Ouch. Wilson also includes some nice glimpses into the modest life of Scrooge’s clerk, Bob Cratchit, and his wife nicely played by John Lescault and Amy McWilliams respectively.
Other standouts in a fine cast comprised of many local actors include the fetching Helen Hedman who plays both gracious Mrs. Fezziwig and Scrooge’s wily housekeeper Mrs. Dilber; Tom Story as Scrooge’s good-humored nephew; and Gregory Maheu as the eager but slightly awkward young bachelor Topper. The cast’s children sing sweetly and give very natural performances. Holden Browne and Sam Ellis rotate the role of Tiny Tim.
Though Dickens’ Christmas story is old, its message and Ford’s production feel anything but.