The Hartford Stage
A Christmas Carol- A Ghost Story of Christmas
Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman
It’s arrived! A gift!
The spirit of Christmas gently sweeps across our New England bringing gifts- “tidings of comfort and joy”! This sweet shadow tugs at our hearts once more, be ye of legs 4, 2 or in twilight of 3, it breathes out a glorious Yuletide intoxication to one and all. Yet dear readers- three truths know I during this solstice; one- liken me as one who has sipped the “Elixir of Life” from the cup of “Christmas Present”, I am unabashedly obsessed with the Hartford Stage’s annual holiday production of Dickens “A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas”. Two – this cherished live production, now in its 19th year, will be Bill Raymond’s final season, after close to two decades, portraying Ebenezer Scrooge. I will miss my friend Bill, “ya ol’ Scrooge”, such an astonishing, awe-inspiring, and an oh-so talented actor- who has brought Christmas Joy to so many!
And the third truth? That would be Producer Michael Wilson- he made us ALL believe again in the “true spirit of Christmas” with a few flying ghosts thrown into the mix. Through Michael’s eyes, vision and creativity- we have personally come to know this brilliant, highly emotional, adaptation of Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol” as a “must-see” during the holidays with family, friends and “Fan-Fans” coming from far and away, back to Hartford, Connecticut, to see this extraordinary event! Seen it once, twice, or every single year for the past 19 years, with childlike eyes- we all still sit in ghostly anticipation of what’s to come, our annual 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!
And speaking of “Fan-Fans”- (a fan of Scrooge’s sister), Tiny Tims and Tim-ettes, Marvel-maniacs, Cratchit-heads, Dilber-Roos, Scroogies, and anyone who has ever been invited to Nephew Scrooge’s holiday party and has partaken in a game of “I love my love with a “B” — there are literally thousands of die-hard fans- fans who arrive together each year be it by foot, chartered limos, even busload- with many of these returnees able to recite the entire Scrooge-script by heart, dressing up as their favorite characters and having after-show “Bah-Humbug” Parties!
In fact, it also must be noted that Michael Wilson unknowingly created an amazing family of actors, current and former, and an immense fanbase for Hartford Stage’s A Christmas Carol. Let me tell you- throughout the entire year, from Facebook pages to emails, cast-mates- present and former, families, friends, devotees constantly stay in contact with each other offering what’s new in all things “Scrooge-Land”- including such news that actor Bill Kux who had previously portrayed Mrs. Dilber for 11 years at Hartford Stage, is currently portraying Ebenezer at the Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont or that of famed actress and lead singer of CIRCULINE, Natalie Brown, herself a 15 year alum, who portrayed several roles including Mrs. Fezziwig, an Apparition, Fred’s Sister in law, and Ole’ Josie is now studying for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Human Development with a concentration in Developmental Psychology. Natalie states, “I am pursuing my Masters in Social Work so I can be a licensed therapist. I still have my actor’s union affiliation, because I am hoping to do an occasional show. Until then, my band keeps me in the performing zone”.
At the start of this article we promised you gifts of comfort and joy- they come in the form of the marvelous multitalented team of performers, besides Bill Raymond’s brilliant “bah-humbug” portrayal of Scrooge, there is the lovely and so enchanting Johanna Morrison who portrays the ghost of Christmas Past and doll vender Bettye Pidgeon, the remarkable Noble Shropshire who portrays the- eerie Ghost of Jacob Marley and Scrooge’s amorous and most beloved housekeeper Mrs. Dilber, And of course the bigger than life Alan Rust (his entrance in Act Two is truly awe-inspiring) as the Spirit of Christmas Present and Bert the cider vender. The cast also includes Terrell Donnell Sledge as Fred; the outstanding Robert Hannon Davis as Bob Cratchit;
Michael Preston as Mr. Marvel; Rebecka Jones as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit; Vanessa R. Butler as a Ghostly Apparition, Fred’s Sister-In-Law; Charlie Tirrell as First Solicitor, Undertaker, Mr. Fezziwig; Buzz Roddy as second solicitor; Tiny Tim is portrayed by Charlize Calcagno and Hunter Cruz; the delightful Margaret Anne Murphy as Martha Cratchit and a host of excellent talented students from the Hartt School.
Finally-Let me state this plainly- You do not want to miss seeing Bill Raymond’s farewell performance of “A Christmas Carol” at the Hartford Stage! This is indeed the year for you and those you cherish to return to the “house of Scrooge” for one special joyful GIFT to yourself and family- a gift so unique that some day YOUR own child can say to his children, “I remember when our entire family went to the “Hartford Stage” to see the one and only Bill Raymond as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” in Hartford!! To my friend Bill Raymond- Thank you for over 647 performances of those “Bah Humbugs”, “imitation Snow Angels” and of course who will ever forget your inventive “jingling jangling jitterbug” with your cash draw keys – btw you did give Cratchit his raise before you left – right? Bill- if the fates allow we will meet again!! Wishing all a very Merry Yuletide and a Happy Turning of the Calendar. 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 25th through December 30th. 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