The Hartford Stage
A Christmas Carol- A Ghost Story of Christmas
Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman
Hey Santa!! – this year Please Please don’t bring me any Partridge in a Pear Tree, or Turtle Doves, French Hens, or even Geese-a Laying like ya did last year – what – a – mess!!!
All I want, what I really really want is a pair of tickets to see the 18th Annual Production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Hartford Stage. Thank you Santa! – for here I sit, in the best seat in the house ( thank you Theresa M. ) in ghostly anticipation of what’s to come, a sojourn to Victorian London, a rendezvous with that lovable scallawag, Ebenezer Scrooge, and a most delightful reunion with a trio of holiday spirits be it past present or future!
It’s currently 20 minute before curtain ( yes I know there are no curtains at the H.S.) when an engaging woman in her early 50’s who’s seated next to me, accompanied by who I presume to be her granddaughter strikes up a conversation. In quick succession, she details her dedicated love for “A Christmas Carol”, how she has not missed one performance at Hartford Stage in 18 years, and then makes a remark that I totally agree with- “this production brings out the best of the holiday spirit in all of us“! She then introduces me to her granddaughter who I come to learn is a devote “Fan fan” – a fan of Scrooge’s sister, and furthermore has the amazing ability to recapitulate abridged quotes of Dicken’s tale – and before you can say “Bob Cratchit”- she takes center stage on row 7, section D of the theater. What have we set in motion I think to myself. Now standing by her grandmother, she curtsies, smiles and with aplomb decries – “are there no workhouses – are there no prisons”? – she then devilishly avows – “I wear the chain I forged in life- I made it link by link and yard by yard” and now showing me her outstretched tiny hands, and drawing us closer expels a quite sinister “bah humbug”!!!! As she lastly looks at her startled grandmother, onlookers and myself, she smiles, returns to her seat and sweetly states “God Bless us – Every one!” – hey producers – sign this child up for next year’s production!!! I’m ready for the “real thing” now!!
So this is “A Christmas Carol” – A Ghost Story of Christmas” – as described above- generations of family’s and fans alike flock back each and every year, some know the entire Maxwell Williams directed production by rote – from the entrance of the spectacular sleigh-drawn arrival of the ghost of Christmas Past ( portrayed by the enchanting Johanna Morrison) to the exact time a newly “rise and shined” Scrooge ( brilliantly played by Bill Raymond – he delivers a wonderfully nasty “Bah Humbug” that no one can imitate, not even 8 year olds) does his angel dance in the snow- yes oh so familiar – like putting on that special Christmas sweater you only wear once a year when family is a-comin’ – and I for one would not have it any other way! This company is indeed family – cherished characters and beloved actors. By the way, beware here comes a spoiler alert – both the eerie Ghost of Jacob Marley and Scrooge’s amorous and most beloved housekeeper Mrs. Dilber are played by the same person, the absolutely remarkable and oh so talented Noble Shropshire-really! I just found out this year- who knew?
In fact many of the performers do double duty including the captivating Johanna Morrison as the Spirit of Christmas Past and doll vender Bettye Pidgeon, and Alan Rust ( what a spectacular entrance he provides) as the Spirit of Christmas Present and Bert the cider vender. The cast also includes Terrell Donnell Sledge as Fred, Young Scrooge; the outstanding Robert Hannon Davis as Bob Cratchit; Kristen Adele as Mrs. Fezziwig, Mrs. Cratchit; Ella Mora as a Ghostly Apparition, Fred’s Sister-In-Law; Michael Preston as Mr. Marvel; Charlie Tirrell as First Solicitor, Undertaker, Mr. Fezziwig; Buzz Roddy as second solicitor; Tiny Tim is portrayed by Norah Girard and Max McGowan, the delightful Asha Potter as Martha Cratchit and a host of excellent talented students from the Hartt School.
Final remarks- if there is one wish Hartford Stage could provide me, Scrooge Fans alike and even Fan-Fans, it would be the gift of a “reunion cast” of “Christmas Carol favorites”! A reunion of the multitalented acting talents of such notables including Natalie Brown, Bill Kux, Curtis Billings and so many more!! What do you think? Please bring them back!!
It is plainly stated- this is a truly magical and so enchanting holiday gift presented by the Hartford Stage- an exquisite rendering of Charles Dickens’ classic tale of redemption, renewed hope and a love for life that takes place, just like Santa’s annual journey, in one night.
Performers are having as much fun in their presentation as we are in being a part of the joyous audience. This is the perfect way to begin your holiday season and will leave you with a sense of childlike wonderment, a glow in your heart and a happy tear in your eye. Throughout this holiday season, I surely hope you and your family will take the time out of your busy schedule to sit back, relax and enjoy this superb production and make it a part of your family’s annual holiday tradition. Enjoy.
Tickets for the Hartford Stage production of “A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas” are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151 or by visiting
http://www.hartfordstage.org. The production runs November 27th through December 27th. Weeknight and evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays at 2 p.m.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at Howardbatv@aol.com