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THEATER REVIEW: Company hosts outstanding ‘Carol'

Gerry Bova of Sandwich, left, and Ian Stearns of Weymouth, are starring in "A Christmas Carol" at the Company Theatre in Norwell. (ZOE BRADFORD Photo)
Characterizations, music help elevate Christmas classic

For The Patriot Ledger

No matter how many times you see Charles Dickens' ‘‘A Christmas Carol'' it always seems like a revelation. It's really too bad that we need Ebenezer Scrooge, Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim to rebalance our priorities each year. But if that's what it takes, so be it.

And if you're going to see it, why not see it live? The Company Theatre has been performing its version of this Christmas classic off and on since 1989. Apparently practice makes perfect; Company's ‘‘Carol'' is an outstanding retelling that offers pleasing characterizations, effective musical accents and well-placed special effects. It's quickly paced, visually stimulating, sometimes scary and often heartwarming.

Although Company's version does have music (directed nicely by Michael V. Joseph), you won't see Scrooge breaking into song about ‘‘decreasing the surplus population'' or Bob Cratchit musically asking for ‘‘the whole day'' off. There is, however, plenty of nice Christmas music, especially during the London street scenes. Directors Zoe Bradford and Jordie Saucerman and their crack crew have turned their stage into a Dickensian village. And when the talented chorus sings ‘‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen'' during the first act, they look like a group of full-scale Annalee dolls with their mouths open wide.

The street scenes are delightful. It's nice to see the children and adults dressed in authentic 19th century English costumes, enjoying the season and the snow. They throw snowballs and slide down an icy ramp (baby powder, I think). Near the end, the audience is showered with a very light snow substitute that advances the joyous atmosphere.

Company's special effects are impressive, too. With his rattling chains and thunderous voice, Jacob Marley (Christopher Smith) will scare you as much as he does Scrooge. And so will his ghostly companions, who beckon Scrooge from a hell outside his window.

After that, there are enough visual and audio surprises to keep you engaged until the end. Most effective are the creepy video flashbacks and Scrooge flight with the enchanting ghost of Christmas Past (Kristin Hall). However, you might get a little tired of the fog that frequently wafts into the audience after serving its purpose on stage.

The acting is quite good throughout. The cast members seem to have no trouble with their lines or their very proper British accents. Even 4-year-old Ian Stearns as Tiny Tim seemed to have his lines and his accent down pat. Gerry Bova's opening interpretation of Scrooge is a bit too diabolical, but he makes some nice adjustments as the character starts to soften. Paul Chiano is endearing as Bob Cratchit; Letitia Riel kept it real as Mrs. Cratchit, Bob's less understanding, but loving, wife. Peter Dupre as Nephew Fred is an effective host, helping us to see the benefits of being kind and generous no matter how much we have - or don't have. Christmas Future is not identified, but he or she is quite foreboding and very tall. Mark McLelland and Zachary Eisenstein helped fill in the blanks as Young Scrooge and Boy Scrooge. Alyssa Benitez as Belle and Michele Riley as Fan showed us that Scrooge actually did once know how to love.

They all help make ‘‘A Christmas Carol'' a memorable and heartwarming show. One hopes we won't wait until next year to remember its important lessons.

A Christmas Carol
At the Company Theatre, Norwell, until Dec. 18. $23-$25;, 781-871-ARTS (2787).

Copyright 2004 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Monday, November 29, 2004


The Company Theatre
30 Accord Park Dr.
Norwell, MA 02061
(781) 871-2787 (ARTS)
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