The David Thompson adaptation of A Christmas Carol at McCarter Theatre directed by Michael Unger is spellbinding. Year after year it never disappoints. This is partially due to Unger’s decision to have mostly new cast members every year to make each year’s production a bit different for the last 16 years, but there are other factors that keep audiences coming back.
This year’s cast is the most diversified I’ve seen, and beautifully reflects the Princeton community. It’s a modern twist of the traditional tale, and is a catalyst to wonderful conversations after the show. An example of the mélange of actors is Indonesian-American, Julyana Soelistyo plays Mrs. Dilber. By the way, she’s also Tony nominated.
While the cast is mostly new, there are some familiar faces on stage. Graeme Malcolm returns as Scrooge, and as always does a phenomenal job. Michael Unger’s decision to keep him on board for four years is rightfully justified. He is a brilliant actor, and cements the cast. Malcolm must be the best Scrooge to have graced the McCarter stage thus far.
James Ludwig returns as Fred/the Schoolmaster/the Undertaker. In the latter role, he gets the kids to react in disgust, but in a funny way, and steals the scene without having to say much. Ludwig manages to incorporate different nuances to his characters annually.
The Ghost of Christmas past is again played by Ronica Reddick. Her character’s peppy personality nicely contrasts Malcolm’s stern portrayal of Scrooge. She too tries to bring subtle changes to her role on a yearly basis.
The sets are another reason to see this production, whether it’s your first or tenth time at McCarter. This is like a Broadway show right here in Princeton. Scrooge & Marley, Ebenizer’s home, Fezziwig’s, the Cratchit’s home, the school yard, and graveyard are all designed with such details, and transition into each other so smoothly that you forget you’re sitting in a suburban theatre.
The effects are magical! Scrooge’s door knocker coming to life, Marley’s ghost going through the wall, Ebenezer flying through the air, and the monstrous Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come have audiences in awe with every performance.
A Christmas Carol is playing at McCarter Theatre until December 29th. It is the perfect holiday show for every generation in your family. If you haven’t seen it yet, I urge you to purchase tickets now, before they sell out!