The Dicken’s story A Christmas Carol has been a long time holiday tradition in Princeton. Since 1980, it has brought Christmas cheer to audiences who return annually to watch the heartwarming story at McCarter Theatre Center. It features a protagonist who is a villain, ghosts, lost love, greed, time travel, and redemption in the backdrop of the Industrial Revolution in London. The child labor played a major role during this time. The gloominess is livened by the colorful and joyful Fezziwig party, and topped with a happy ending. What enhances the production directed by Michael Unger, is the inclusion of local children.
This year is more special, since it will be the last year to see the current adaptation. Starting with the 2016 season, this holiday classic will be refreshed, sharing a new perspective. Over the decades, since the original book was written, there have been different versions of this Yuletide tale, including a retelling of biblical Christmas, a children’s story, and one of social classes. David Thompson’s adaptation remains faithful to Dickens’s story, and in McCarter’s current production, they highlight the struggles during Victorian times, and the redemption of Christmas. The reimagined adaptation is sure to be great, but the bar has been set extremely high by Unger. I urge you to see this final production, because it’s a well-oiled machine that continues to fascinate one and all.
A Christmas Carol begins with Ebenezer Scrooge as a strict, frugal, and uncaring man who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, and frowns upon others who do because they taking the day off; therefore, stealing money from their employers. Seven years after the death of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge is visited by his ghost. Marley is condemned to walk the earth for eternity never to find rest or peace, and wants redeem himself of his past greed and cruel nature. The younger Marley and Scrooge, unbeknownst to Fezziwig, took over their boss’ counting house, finding him too incompetent to run the business. The two became cold-hearted bankers, not caring one bit about the plight of those less fortunate.
Jacob Marley’s ghost attempts to show Scrooge the error of his ways by sending the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Yet to Come to make him realize that he has strayed far from his youthful idealism. The ghosts remind Scrooge of how kind he used to be as a boy and young apprentice, show Scrooge the current lives of those around him, and how he affected people’s lives in the future. It was only then that Ebenezer Scrooge changed his mentality, and decided to become a better person.
It’s hard to imagine anyone else portraying Scrooge besides Graeme Malcolm. He has perfected the very essence of Ebenezer Scrooge, and your ticket price will be worth it just to watch him perform. The good thing is, the supporting roles of the remainder of the cast are filled by equally talented actors. This ensemble, including local kids, is incredible. The cast is also wonderfully diverse.
The creative team is incredible. They executed everything with precision, which is why their work doesn’t always draw attention. Michael Unger’s direction of this production has been fine tuned down to the details. He has made A Christmas Carol at McCarter magical from implementing a talking door knocker and Jacob Marley disappearing into a wall to flying ghosts and Scrooge falling through the floor. Children and adults will be amazed.
There was such care taken in set design. The counting houses, Fezziwg’s party, young Ebenezer’s school, Scrooge’s home, and the Kratchit’s home, were all created with great detail thanks to Ming Cho Lee. Brian Ronan truly understands the acoustics of the theatre. There was just the right amount of ambient noise combined with background sounds to create a realistic field. It was also the ultimate in surround sound with voices and sounds coming from speakers on the left or right side of the theater in addition to coming from the stage. Costume design by Joss Goldstein and the British accents with the help of dialect coach Gillian Lane-Plescia really pulled everything together.
There’s still time to catch this beloved adaptation before the reimagined version graces the stage next year. A Christmas Carol has a run time of 2 hours, and will be running on the Matthews stage at McCarter Theatre Center, 91 University Place, Princeton until Sunday, December 27. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 609-258-2787.