>American Shakespeare Center: A Christmas Carol

>It’s a little late in the run to be doing a review, but I’ve been out of town. Still, if you’re in the Staunton vicinity between now and the final performance on Sunday afternoon, I heartily recommend that you catch the American Shakespeare Center‘s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Even if you’ve seen it before–everyone’s seen it, right?–you should see this one.

I’ve been going to ASC’s “Carol” productions every year since the Blackfriars Playhouse opened in 2001, and I always look forward to seeing how the show will be made new. I’ve yet to be disappointed. This year was especially musical and, it seemed to me, played more for laughs than previous productions. For one thing, James Keegan (of late, King Lear, so the contrast is stark) makes a funny scrooge. He’s hilarious when he’s mocking his nephew Fred and the beggar boy, and also when he is injected into the “shadows” that the spirits show him. The spirits of Christmas Past and Present are also very funny. Ginna Hoben plays “Past” as though she’s part drill sergeant and part fairy godmother, while Rick Blunt is his usual comic self as “Present”. Christmas Future takes a darker turn, of course, and the scene that Scrooge observes with the Tiny Tim-less Cratchit family is truly emotional (very well done by Josh Carpenter as Bob and Kelley McKinnon as Mrs. Cratchit). After Scrooge awakes from his dream, he goes wild with joy, and Keegan is excellent here also. (He’s as manically mad as Lear is depressed, I think.)

There was a great moment that probably can’t be repeated when Scrooge is laughing all over the place on stage and then suddenly reappears on the musician’s balcony. Tonight, all the stools up there were taken by audience members and Keegan startled two young women, which was funny enough, but then he did it two more times and got screams out of the the women both times. The audience lost it. Hilarious. Precious moments that were more likely planned involved using the audience members on the gallant stools as coat racks in Scrooge’s office. The kids got a kick out of that.

And, as I said, it’s a musical production, too, with the cast working in lots of carols before and during the performance, plus at the interval.

It’s a great show and eveyrone should see it. ASC is also doing Santaland Diaries again this year and I’ll be seeing that tomorrow. And the touring company is also giving sneak peak previews on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the shows that will be here in early spring: Comedy of Errors, Hamlet, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead. Lots of theater to take in; opportunities not to be missed.

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