Theatre Review: Sixteenth time is the charm for classic

By Jason McKay

A bright flash and a bang echo throughout the theater, silence falling over the audience to mark the exit of the Ghost of Christmas Past. Shock and awe ripple across faces as the pyro ignites and dies off. The look of fear and wonder in Scrooge says it all, as it has every year of the run. Theater Calgary’s sixteenth annual production of A Christmas Carol is a staple of the holiday season in the city. And as always, it’s a production wrapped up in excellent performances and casting to bring its much-adored characters to life within the inspired stage design of 19th century London.

A classic story written by Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol revolves around the ba-humbug of boss Ebenezer Scrooge who has no use for Christmas or much else in life, besides money. During Christmas Eve four visiting ghosts change his life forever.

For eleven consecutive years, Stephen Hair has played Ebenezer Scrooge for Theatre Calgary. It has given the actor the time to nail the character, bringing an incredible believability to the penny-pinching boss who realizes the error of his ways­, from his meeting with the uplifting Ghost of Christmas Past, to the joy Scrooge evokes when meeting the Cratchit family, Hair responds with unwavering truth.

But the entirety of A Christmas Carol doesn’t fall on the hunched shoulders of Hair, as the rest of the cast puts forth a first-rate job in bringing this 19th century classic to life, from Philip Warren Sarsons’ downtrodden Mr. Cratchit to the uplifting Tiny Tim played by Idan Wolach. Warren adds subtlety to his Mr. Cratchit, able to play the comedy relief, but also reveal a more serious side to his character in scenes with his son Tiny Tim.

All the performances work beyond just the talents of the cast due to the brilliant stage design of Dany Lyne. Set up for minimal changes to the stage between scenes, with a few props alternated to keep up with the brisk play, audiences will be convinced the actors on stage walk the streets of London.

From the uplifting Christmas carolers at the beginning of the show to the celebration at the end, Theatre Calgary once again puts on an excellent production of this Christmas classic. With fine performances, including Stephen Hair’s portrayal of Scrooge, crafty stage design and shocking pyrotechnics sure to” awe its audiences, this is a performance you don’t want to miss. It’s essential to the holiday experience in Calgary, having become almost an institution. Missing A Christmas Carol would be like a Christmas devoid of snow and heart. Even Ebenezer wouldn’t want that.


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