Let us not sidestep reality, times are tough for many Calgarians right now. The economic downturn has severely interrupted this holiday season’s jubilations. And so, given the current situation, there could be no better time to stage Charles Dickens’ hymn for goodwill, A Christmas Carol.
Now in its 29th year at Theatre Calgary, Dickens’ A Christmas Carol tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Stephen Hair), an elderly miser who is visited by three spirits on Christmas Eve. (Allison Lynch and Graham Piercy return as the Spirits of Christmas Past and Present, respectively, with Joe Perry playing the Spirit of Christmas Future). Just before the spirits arrive, the ghost of Scrooge’s dear friend and business partner Jacob Marley (Robert Klein) warns him to heed the spirits or else face dire consequences in the afterlife. Scrooge’s journey with the spirits transforms him into a man of charity, kindness, and friendship after he sees the errors of his ways.
For many, A Christmas Carol is familiar territory. There is good reason the story has endured so long, because its message still remains true today, especially now when charity is needed most.
Everyday life leaves no room for charity, because there never seems to be enough time. Someone else will help the hungry, we tell ourselves, shedding any responsibility. Time is, of course, a luxury, and some only have so much time, like Tiny Tim (Annabel Beames). It is only until we step back from our daily business, as Scrooge does thanks to the spirits, that we realize both how how precious time truly is and the urgency of charity.
Dickens calls on us to help those in need as much we can, not only for their benefit, but the benefit of everyone. For charity is not just about helping others, but strengthening the social fabric we belong to as just a single thread among many others. In difficult times, a strong sense of community is vitally important to all as hardship can affect everyone, no matter who they are.
It is this message that makes this production of A Christmas Carol immensely moving during these difficult times. Amidst the turmoil, Calgarians have embraced the spirit of giving by doing what they can to not only help those affected by the downturn, but also refugees entering Canada. And it is not out of fear from spirits, but a passion for community, for laying the groundwork for a better tomorrow. Charity enriches us all, the ultimate lesson from Scrooge’s journey.
Simply put, Theatre Calgary’s production of A Christmas Carol is pure magic. Director Dennis Garnhum stages the sheer terror and joy of this classic tale with gusto. The audience is taken through a marvelous journey, full of singing, dancing, and skating in the park, that moves like a reader eagerly flipping the pages of a book. Patrick Clark’s fantastic sets, in fact, have something of a pop-up book feel to them, giving Victorian England a vibrant look. The imaginative production is a feast for the eyes that will dazzle even the most hardened audience member. Audiences will be enchanted by the grand scale of this adaptation, rich with effects, staged inside the Martha Cohen Theatre.
The playful, yet sinister ghouls that haunt Scrooge’s manor look absolutely wonderful thanks to great costume design by Kevin Lamotte.
Hair, entering his 22nd year as Scrooge, is a magnificent talent. The actor is simply enchanting in this role of a man who, after many years, learns to laugh and cry. Piercy is lively as the spirit of Christmas Present, as he should be considering the spirit’s essence. Piercy has a wholesome laugh and bounce to his step that makes it all the more poignant when the spirit’s life draws to an end (the Present only lasts so long). Karl Sine plays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s overworked and underpaid employee, with the sort of sweetness that makes our heart go out to such a defeated, yet optimistic character.
For nearly three decades, Theatre Calgary has staged this classic tale for Calgary audiences, and this year seems more important than ever in keeping the tradition alive. Good cheer is alive through and through. Rarely does a production offer relief in the way this adaptation of A Christmas Carol does. Audiences will be enthralled by this profoundly stunning production of A Christmas Carol by Theatre Calgary.
Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol runs Nov 26 – Dec 24 at the Martha Cohen Theatre.
For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit: https://www.theatrecalgary.com/2015-16/a-christmas-carol