REVIEW: Theatre Orangeville’s A Christmas Carol is a must see

If you are not yet in a festive mood, you will be after seeing Theatre Orangeville’s latest production, A Christmas Carol.

The timeless classic,  adapted from the original by Donnie Bowes, is a perfect family outing for the Christmas season, though some scenes may be too frightening for young children.

David Nairn expertly dir­ects a cast of 11, not including the 25 or so members of the Theatre Orangeville Youth Sing­ers (TOYS) who will impress audiences with their wonderful voices – though at times they are not loud enough to carry to the back of the theatre.

Thomas Hauff, as Ebenezer Scrooge, is the star of the show. He plays the role with unwavering conviction and  even manages to breathe new life into Scrooge’s tired old expression, “bah humbug.”

Hauff did stumble over his lines once during the grand opening show last week. But considering the enormous amount of material provided for him, it was understandable and did not detract at all from either the production or his outstanding individual performance.

Jonathan Ellul strikes an immediate chord with the audience as the unassuming Bob Cratchit, who can’t help but get caught up in the spirit of Christmas. Ellul also plays the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Derek Ritschel, who plays Fred, young Ebenezer, and a businessman, is a standout in the production as well, particularly as Scrooge of yesteryear.

Stuart Dowling  (Marley’s ghost, Mr. Fezziwig, and Ghost of Christmas Present) has a remarkable stage presence – mostly due to his delivery, though his impressive stature doesn’t hurt.

Pamela Scott, who was born and raised in Orangeville, is also excellent in her limited stage appearances as Belle and Melissa. And Lisa Horner (Mrs. Dilber, Mrs. Fezziwig, and Mrs. Cratchit) and Michael Strathmore (Dick Wilkins, Topper, the lamplighter, and Ghost of Christmas Future) also offer great performances.

Audiences will thoroughly enjoy the performances of several children featured in the play, including McKenna Low­rie – an 8-year-old making her theatre debut – who is excellent as Tiny Tim and Ignorance. And Martine Panzica (Martha and Fanny) and Austin Strange (Peter and a miner) will dazzle audiences with their fabulous voices.

The costumes, courtesy Vandy Simpson and Nancy Turner, are perfect, but what really brings everything together in this production is the lighting and set design by Steve Lucas, which are among the best theatregoers will see at the local level.

Overall, A Christmas Carol is an astounding production and it will do everyone some good to see it – particularly the Scrooges among us.

Bowes summed up the play perfectly in the program when he states, “Not only does it still look into the nooks and crannies of society and shine a light on those less fortunate among us, it also reminds us that once in a while there is some value in stepping back and discovering where we fit in the lives of those around us.

“A yearly dose of Dickens’ timeless story is probably a good thing.”

This was my first ever live exposure to the 1843 Charles Dickens tale, and if other presentations are this good, I’ll be lining up for my annual dose every year.

A Christmas Carol plays six shows weekly until Dec. 21. For tickets call 519-942-3423 or 1-800-424-1295.