Theater Review: Civic ‘Christmas Carol’ community again inspires
It’s “bah humbug” season again, and for the 29h year, Ebenezer Scrooge and his cohorts are on stage at Civic Theatre of Allentown’s 19th Street Theatre, once again bringing to life Charles Dickens’ inspiring story of humanity and redemption, “A Christmas Carol.”
The adaptation of the beloved tale is the collaboration of Civic Theatre’s Sharon Lee Glassman and Artistic Director William Sanders, who has directed each year’s production for the past quarter-century.
In Sander’s capable hands, “A Christmas Carol,” which continues through Dec. 15, has become a true community endeavor, with literally hundreds of local actors, singers and dancers sharing the spotlight over the years.
A hallmark of the casting is the inclusion of lots of children and teens, who get a chance to experience theater in person at an early age.
This year is no exception, based on the Dec. 1 performance seen for this review. Besides the usual walk-on roles for youngsters, it’s nice to see some of the principal speaking roles given to youthful performers.
In particular, Scrooge’s nephew Fred is portrayed sensitively by 13-year-old Max Weatherhold, and Fred’s Wife Nancy and Scrooge’s fiancé Belle are nicely played by high school actor Annabelle Silkworth.
Reprising his role as Scrooge, which he last played in 2014, is veteran actor Barry Glassman. As the curmudgeonly miser, Glassman believably transitions from mean to merry. In between, he perceptively exposes the complexity of the character and unleashes the depth of feeling that Ebenezer has repressed during his lifetime.
Brian Rock is imposing as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His jolly demeanor quickly gives way to a powerful condemnation of bigotry, ignorance and want. Rock’s singing is a pleasant addition.
Will Morris’ Victorian-era costumes are properly varied and lovely, no small task when you have 100 or more characters to outfit.
The set’s double-level construction affords maximum movement of the actors. Designed and built by scenic designer and technical director Joshua Deruosi, a nice added touch are the slides on each side of the stage for the street urchins to skid down.
At the risk of being a Grinch, it bears mentioning that are a few things that don’t work as well as they could have: The movement of Scrooge’s bed across the stage to reflect going back in time, and fhe fog in the cemetery scene that is eerie, but the smoke and fog effects are overused so as to lessen the impact.
What does work very well are the sound effects of rattling chains before Jacob Marley’s ghost (George Kovarie) appears, the “Twelve Days of Christmas” number with the children, the lighting effects with the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Kovarie), and the touching scene when Tiny Tim (Lukas Barnett) hugs Scrooge.
Another good thing is that director Sanders is a master at using all the performance space he has available, including the house aisles.
There are so many people and so many moments in “A Christmas Carol” that deserve mention, but, to quote the Ghost of Christmas Present, “There is never enough time to do or say all that we would wish.”
Tickets: Civic Theater box office, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown; civictheatre.com; 610-432-8943