It's December, and that means geese are a-laying, the weather outside is frightful, and "A Christmas Carol" has returned to Pasadena's A Noise Within Theatre, to deliver its annual production of Charles Dickens' acclaimed novel.
For those who have somehow remained untouched by Dickens' holiday classic, "A Christmas Carol" was published in 1843, and tells the story of how the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by several ghosts on Christmas Eve, who take him through the years' Christmases and show him what his life has become. With the help of the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge travels through time to see his younger self, his family, and many merry and kind-hearted people who teach him be a better man, and embody the true spirit of Christmas all year long.
There were some flaws in the night's performances, but they was eclipsed by the energy and constant flurry of happy activity on stage. Frederick Stuart plays a lovely Narrator, worthy of Dickens' writing and voice. Although this winter's performance of Ebenezer Scrooge is far from Producing Artistic Director Geoff Elliott's first time playing the bitter old protagonist, he maintains freshness, humor and flawless timing in every "Humbug!" and blustering movement. The Ghosts of Christmas Past and Present—played by Deborah Strang and Stephen Weingartner aren't particularly memorable for anything except their whimsical costumes, but Rafael Goldstein's Fred Scrooge and young Ebenezer certainly separates him from the rest of the Ensemble. The children, however, steal the show. Ryan Dizon's Tiny Tim and Jack Zubieta Elliott's Peter Cratchit are adorable and energetic, and though Rigel Blue Pierce-English is a little too quick and quiet to always be heard, her cheery Fan isn't disappointing.
Aside from an unnecessary dance sequence during the fourth stave, the pace and organization of the play is a massive credit to Geoff Elliott and Julia Rodriguez-Elliott's strong direction. The play's lighting design however, doesn't do it justice. Tacky projected images really aren't required in a traditional, 19th-century play—lighting designer Ken Booth's decision to use them underestimates both Dickens' text, and the cast's narration. Ego Plum and Melissa Sky-Eagle's music and songs are wonderfully styled, embodying the simultaneously ominous and heartwarming tone of a story about ghosts and Christmas. Angela Balogh Calin's fantastic, over-the-top costumes are slightly undermined by Klint Flowers' clumsy wigs (why would anyone wear hot pink braids, even in a scene of revelry?), but the swing that Jeanine A. Ringer designed for the Ghost of Christmas Past is the ultimate crowd pleaser.
To cap it all, there's free cider at the end of every show, and pictures with a pretty adorable cast. So for anyone looking for a little Christmas spirit, visit A Noise Within for a magical evening, a wonderful message, and some good-natured entertainment. 'Tis the season to be jolly, and "A Christmas Carol" is the ultimate treat.
"A Christmas Carol" is playing at A Noise Within Theatre (3352 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA, 91107) from December 1st to the 23rd, 2017. Tickets range from $25 to $84. For more information, call (626) 356-3100 or visit anoisewithin.org.
Correction: This review inaccurately attributed the wig design to Klint Flowers. She was not responsible for the designs. She was the wig stylist for the production. We apologize for the error.