Friday, December 8, 2017

A Christmas Carol—Portland Playhouse—SE Portland

A Song For All Seasons
This classic story by Charles Dickens is adapted and has original music and lyrics by Rick Lombardo and original music and arrangements by Anna Lackaff, too, as well as music direction by Eric Little.
  It is directed by Brain Weaver (Artistic Director for the company) and Cristi Miles.  It is playing at the Hampton Opera Center in the Hinckley Studio Theatre, 211 SE Caruthers St. (there is limited parking on the street and also a parking lot—but it is somewhat confusing as to what spaces are available to park in), through December 30th. 
For more information, go to their site at
www.portlandplayhouse.org or call 503-488-5822.
The original Christmas story, of course, is The Nativity.  But jockeying for second place would be Dickens’s ultimate tale of redemption.  And the main character, Scrooge, has had many incarnations, from the early 30’s with Seymour Hicks to the present-day one with Christopher Plummer (the best being Alastair Sim from the early 50’s).  This season in the Greater Portland area is one which includes Dickens himself at Bag & Baggage (excellent) in Hillsboro; a musical version from Stumptown Players at the Brunish theatre in downtown Portland and a staged radio version by Sam Mowry at the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver, WA.
The reason, in part, this story is so often repeated, is because it is universal and speaks a deeper language that all cultures can identify with.
  It is also because most people would like to think, flawed as we all are, that we can be given a second chance…that wayward ways can be redeemed.  It would be comforting to know, in these tumultuous times, that Goodness and Right will win over Evil and Might.  “And the beat goes on….”
The tale, for the one or two that might not know it, is this:
  As the original story goes, when we first visit Ebenezer Scrooge (the great, Todd Van Voris) in his counting house (he’s a money-lender), he has spurned some very animated charity collectors (Eric Little & Rachel Lewis), his own nephew, the joyous, Fred (Charles Grant) and even his sole clerk, the always hopeful, Bob Cratchit (Julian Remulla).  His place in society seems locked, until a visit from his old partner, the ghastly, Jacob Marley (Sarah Smith), now a ghost, who warns him of dire consequences in the afterlife if he doesn’t change his miserly ways. 
He then is visited by three spirits, the chiding, Ghost of Christmas Past (Lewis, again), the flamboyant, Spirit of the Present (Grant, again) and the ominous shadow of the specter of Yet-To-Come.
  The first one gives him a peek at his past as a Young Man (Little, again) with his loving sister, Fan (Kayla Kelly), mother of his nephew, Fred, now deceased, and a rather jolly, old Fezziwig (Remulla, again), a generous employer and his best friend, Dick (Kristopher Adams).  And, of course, there is his true love, dear sweet, Belle (Lewis, again), who cast him aside because of his single-minded pursuit of wealth. 
The second spirit shows him the present, with the joy of the Cratchit family, Bob’s outspoken wife (Claire Rigsby), their children, Peter (Phillip Wells), Martha (Tina Mascaro), Willie (Chiara Rothenberg), Alice (Serelle Strickland), Belinda (Maeve Z. O’Connor) and the ailing, Tiny Tim (Margot Weaver). Then he visits the gay atmosphere of his nephew and endearing wife and friends at this very festive season of the year.
 
The third visions, from a supposed time in the future, has his spoils being divided up by the “street” people (Rigsby, Smith and Lewis, again), and points to doom and gloom for Tiny Tim.
  He also sees his own gravestone, which has a profound effect on the aging man.  These messages rest heavily on the old man’s heart as he vows then to keep Christmas in his heart all year round and make use of his wealth for the good of others.  As it should be said for each and every one of us.
The production is done is a story-telling fashion, with all the characters narrating bits and pieces of the tale as it moves forward.
  It is also low-tech and is in the round, which gives the story a certain accessibility for the audience.  In this setting, Weaver and Miles have kept the scenes moving quickly and their casting is spot-on.  Van Voris is in top form, playing the essence of the man, not as a withered ole poop on the brink of death, but as a vibrant power of change, waiting to break loose his own chains, which his ghosts/muses happily provide the means.  Always a plus to have this gentleman as part of the cast.  And the rest of the actors are in fine form, too.  Little and Grant standing out in various supporting roles.  And this has to be the smallest Tiny Tim I’ve ever seen and Margot Weaver fits the role to a tee.
I recommend this production.
  If you do choose to go, please tell them Dennis sent you.

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