Orange County Theatre Reviews

(photo credit: Jenny Graham/SCR)

Written by Daniella Litvak

Charles Dickens wrote in the preface to A Christmas Carol,

“I have endeavored in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humor with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me.” 

His endeavor succeeded. Year after year — December after December — his “Ghost of an Idea” visits those of us walking the Earth. It’s unavoidable. However, good adaptations — like the one currently running at the South Coast Repertory — of this classic are great reminders of why this story has and will continue to endure. 

A Christmas Carol adaptation can be told with Muppets or transplanted to the present day, but SCR keeps theirs close to the original text. It’s 19th-Century London. As described in the program, Ebenezer Scrooge is “a grasping, covetous old man.” On Christmas Eve, he’s especially despicable as he refuses to donate money to the poor, insults his nephew Fred, and forces his employee Bob Cratchit to work overtime for daring to request Christmas Day off. Later that night, the ghost of Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley visits Scrooge to warn him to change his miserly ways or be damned like him. This kicks off a spiritual journey into Scrooge’s past, present, and what is yet to come.

Richard Doyle is excellent as Scrooge. He plays all facets of the character well. One of my favorite scenes was Scrooge waking up after The Spirit of Christmas Yet-To-Come left him. It’s him monologuing for a fair bit while getting dressed to go out. Extended monologue scenes are tricky because watching a single actor go on and on can get tedious. Here, Doyle’s performance keeps you engaged during the entire scene.

The show also features several children performers. Yunah Choi[1] is adorable and precocious as “Tiny” Tim Cratchit. I had forgotten the Cratchits had other kids besides “Tiny” Tim. Still, Annabelle Green, Matthew Chan, and Natalie Bright were equally adorable and precocious in the roles of Belinda Cratchit, Peter Cratchit, and Martha Cratchit. And the cast overall did a terrific job of capturing the spirit of the season and making the festivities feel genuine.

The production team nailed the costume and set design. They were equally good at translating the horror elements for the stage as they were the warmer and happier moments. I loved the fog and snow effects.

There are so many versions of A Christmas Carol — many you can watch from the comfort of your home. SCR puts on a good case for why you should see a staged version. Things like the rattling of Jacob Marley’s chain make a greater impact. The story hits you on a deeper level. I’ll admit I came into the theater feeling Scroogish, and I went out of the theater feeling Scroogish but like a Scrooge who had just woken up on Christmas morning.

[1] Children’s roles are doubled cast. The actors listed are the ones who performed the night I attended.

Exceptional Show! OCR Recommended Show!
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Nov 26 – Dec 24, 2022

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