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REVIEW: Timeless Christmas tale a fine production

by Chris Daponte

ORANGEVILLE - The lessons learned by Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol are important for everyone to remember at this time of year.

With its latest adaptation of the 1843 Charles Dickens tale, Theatre Orangeville reminds audiences that like Scrooge, it is never too late to change for the good.

One of the most popular holiday stories of all time, A Christmas Carol tells the tale of how ghostly visitors relay to Scrooge - through visions of the past, present and future - the error of his selfish and unkind ways.

Thomas Hauff returns as Scrooge, having played the cantankerous lead character in Theatre Orangeville’s 2008 production of the same play.

Hauff, a remarkably accomplished stage actor, clearly knows the role well, and while that surely came in handy when it came to memorizing lines, at times his delivery seemed a little stale.

Overall, his portrayal of Scrooge was excellent, but Hauff, and indeed the rest of the cast, got off to a slow start during the Dec. 1 show, perhaps because it was the preview.

With the exception of a fine opening performance from the talented and endearing Theatre Orangeville Youth Singers - they did not have any problems at all with sound level or clarity, unlike the 2008 singers - the play seemed to trudge along slowly for the first 15 minutes or so.

But by the time the ghost of Jacob Marley (played by Bobby Prochaska) comes to warn Scrooge of the three coming spirits, things are well underway and the production runs smoothly with few hiccups.

Prochaska, who also plays Mr. Fezziwig, the Ghost of Christmas Present and two other small roles, is excellent in all his roles and particularly excels in adding a touch of humour to the ghostly characters, even managing to overcome a small costume malfunction with ease.

Leah Oster (Belle, Meg, and Mrs. Lamplighter) and Jade Elliott (Dick Wilkens, Topper, Bert the Lamplighter and Ghost of Christmas Future) are great in their respective roles.

Jason Jazrawy is outstanding as Young Ebenezer, infusing the role with a remarkable amount of emotion. He also adds some comic relief as a businessman (alongside Prochaska) and is good as Fred.

Amanda Parsons gets perhaps the biggest laughs in the play as Mrs. Dilber, Mrs. Cratchit and Mrs. Fezziwig. Her body language, facial expressions and mannerisms are the perfect compliments to all three supporting roles.

Kevin Dennis plays Bob Cratchit, Old Joe and the Ghost of Christmas Past. He is great as all three characters, though he truly excels as Cratchit and particularly in the emotional scenes involving Tiny Tim.

Youngster Malcolm Harris is great as Peter, A Miner and Uriah Fezziwig. His singing and acting skills are great for someone so young (going forward, he will share the role with Adam Bartley).

The pair that truly captures the heart of the audience are siblings Breagh MacDonald (Martha, Fanny, Want) and Liam MacDonald (Tiny Tim, Ignorance), who will share the roles with Jayde Lavoie and Lauryn Gough  during the three-week run.

Aged 12 and six respectively, the MacDonalds, who are from Grand Valley, steal the show despite limited material in the script. Breagh, a remarkable actor and singer, is flawless as Martha and Fanny, nailing down even the most subtle nuances of the characters. Liam seems perfectly cast as Tiny Tim and announces the most adorable “God bless us, everyone” that audiences will see anywhere.

Donnie Bowes’ stage adaptation of the Dickens tale is great and all the players seem to have received excellent direction from David Nairn. The lighting and set design by Steve Lucas is, as usual, amazing and a real compliment to the production. As is the costume design by Vandy Simpson.

Other than the slow start, minor costume malfunctions and the odd fumbled line, audiences will be hard pressed to find anything they don’t like about this production of A Christmas Carol.

That said, regular Theatre Orangeville patrons may find themselves wondering why theatre officials felt the need to produce the play twice within three years.

Bowes notes in the program  that “a yearly dose of Dickens’ timeless story is probably a good thing,” but there is no need to recycle the same production at the same theatre so quickly. Surely there are other plays that would appeal to audiences at this time of year.

Forgiving the redundancy, the theatre’s latest installment of A Christmas Carol is a fine production in its own right, and it is sure to get audiences in the Christmas spirit.

It plays six shows a week until Dec. 23. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295 or visit www.theatreorangeville.ca

 

December 9, 2011

 
 

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