“A Christmas Carol” charms once more

By: Andrew Koch ~Editor-in-Chief~

Cincinnati’s Playhouse in the Park opened its 24th annual “A Christmas Carol,” adapted by Howard Dallin, on Nov. 26.

Dickens’ timeless story tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a “bah humbug”-ing curmudgeon
who learns to love after seeing visions brought on by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come. Dallin’s adaptation especially focuses on Scrooge’s past, humanizing the character whose name has become synonymous with negativity.

The play’s narrative explores Scrooge’s youth and follows him through his adolescence as an apprentice at the Fezziwigs’ shop, his romance with a woman named Belle and his eventual business partnership with the cold-hearted Jacob Marley.

For the 10th season, Bruce Cromer stars as Scrooge. His veteran status shines through as he deftly commands the stage. Cromer captures a wide swath of emotions as his character evolves throughout the play, bringing to life both Scrooge’s miserly scowl and his wild Christmas spirit.

In fact, Cromer spends a large portion of the play’s finale alone on stage but manages to entertain his audience with his manic gestures and delivery. Cromer also gracefully handled a showstopping technical difficulty that would have paralyzed a less experienced actor. Indeed, most of the play’s actors are accustomed to the show, and their presence and performances reflect the show’s status as a Cincinnati classic.

In addition to Cromer, Ryan Wesley Gilreath plays the flighty and tender-hearted Bob Cratchit, garnering both laughs and sympathy from the audience. Even the show’s younger performers notably Ty Joseph Shelton (Tiny Tim) and Kinley Brooke Shoemaker (Scrooge’s sister, Fan) dazzle with their energy. The cast is rounded out by more strong performances, including one by Xavier Director of Theatre Stephen Skiles, who plays four characters.

In addition to boasting deft and experienced acting, the Playhouse’s “Christmas Carol” features an intricate set that ingeniously maximizes the theater’s space and creates an intimate experience for the audience. A single outer scenic thrust serves as Scrooge’s bedroom, the “Scrooge & Marley” office, a London street corner and a tavern. In addition, set pieces and characters rise from small openings downstage, leading to some dramatic entrances like the one made by the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present.

The play’s lights and sound also bolster the audience’s experience. As Scrooge is about to
see the ghost of Jacob Marley in his house, the scenery around him quivers and his front door knocker moves as if on its own as the voice of Jacob Marley’s ghost seems to sweep across the theater. The Playhouse’s adaptation of the tale has become a yuletide staple for theatre lovers and for good reason.

The show is graced with a lively veteran cast as well as impressive technics. The show is an absolute joy for theatergoers looking for a heartwarming holiday experience. “A Christmas Carol” runs until Dec. 28, and tickets can be purchased at the Playhouse’s website.

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