'Bah humbug' adaptation inspires Christmas spirit
Professor's adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" premieres
December 4, 2006 —
It seems there is no story more closely connected to the holidays than that of Charles Dickens' classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge. Hence, it was a bit surprising when the theatre department decided to showcase "A Christmas Carol: Marley's Redemption" as its final show of the semester, opening itself up to problems of familiarity that could have easily haunted the production in ways no trio of spirits could match.
Yet, with a move to stay true to Dickens' original story and a little help from a magnificent cast and set, this version comes off quite well and should leave most muttering anything but bah-humbug.
While we all know Scrooge's tale and the changes to his life that come as a result of three Christmas spirits, few know that the story they usually see isn't quite what Dickens had in mind. "Marley's Redemption," according to director Ric Roberts, is a true adaptation of the original and brings more attention to the ghost of Jacob Marley, a man who once called Scrooge partner and friend.
It seems Roberts made a wise choice in making Marley more of a presence, as the ghost looms on stage and looks out over the happenings almost constantly. Yet, perhaps the wiser choice was the casting of Marley, a move that required Roberts to look no further than behind the scenes to find the ideal fit.
Jerry Dennis plays Marley to perfection as he moans and drags his chains around stage narrating the story. And while Dennis' portrayal of Marley is one of the show's best, his set may be the real showstopper. Dennis is the technical director for the theatre department and designed the set and makeup for "Marley's Redemption." It is here that the show shines, with one of the most elaborate sets in memory.
The set's brilliance begins with its focal point: a two-story Victorian mansion with a working clock tower. While the set is used more towards the beginning of the play, it serves as a nice backdrop for the remainder which utilizes everything from trap doors and wire suspensions to snow and smoke machines. Truly, Scrooge's world is in constant motion.
As Scrooge, Caleb Knutson is often in motion, as well. Moving all over the stage, Knutson does a phenomenal job showing Scrooge's metamorphosis from a crotchety penny pincher to a joyful philanthropist brimming with Christmas spirit.
And while on the subject of spirit, "Marley's Redemption" has three good ones. Josh Thomas as the Ghost of Christmas Present and Patrick Eurich as the Ghost of Christmas Future are larger than life. On stilts throughout the entire show, the two project opposite personalities, yet both do a good job of maintaining the spiritual sense. And while the Ghost of Christmas Past (played by Kate Fisher and Katie Muirhead) is grounded, both actresses deliver solid interweaving performances that make them seem as much siren as spirit.
While solid, the play was not without its faults, particularly from a technical standpoint. Problems with microphones - especially in the latter parts of the show - were an annoyance. However, these errors are understandable given the elaborate nature of the play. With a cast of 40 some members and a set full of moving parts, a little microphone feedback is forgivable.
In the end, Roberts' choice to put on this show at this time was an obvious and safe one. And while that decision could have easily yielded just another rendition of the classic story, a few careful moves allowed "Marley's Redemption" to turn out nicely.