There’s a new Christmas Carol happening at South Pasadena Theatre Workshop that is a slick, inventive and fast-paced adaptation of the Dickens classic that proves to be a delightful and emotionally satisfying evening for the whole family. As is always the case with SPTW productions, it feels communal.
Dickens story of the cantankerous and avaricious Ebenezer Scrooge who is given a chance at redemption through visitations by the ghost of his former business partner and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future is given an imaginatively playful rendition by a tight ensemble cast. The direction by co-directors Sally Smythe and Schuyler Mastain is taut, witty and whimsical, putting the focus squarely on Scrooge’s psychological journey.
Leading the talented ensemble is Robert Cesario as Ebenezer, giving a nuanced and layered performance that takes him from mean and miserly to a twinkly-eyed softy reborn. There is a depth to his performance and we sense his brokenness when he is looking painfully at his younger self. He beautifully realizes Scrooge’s complete transformation into the wide-eyed, soulful boy he once was and his sprightly giddiness when he realizes he hasn’t missed Christmas is absolutely infectious.
Cesario is supported by a crackerjack ensemble who all take on multiple roles, bringing the story to wondrous life with an affecting sound and light design that evokes a rapturous adventure and sometimes scary night. Instead of one narrator, different characters step forward to narrate at different moments. Smythe leads us off, smart in her top hat and coattails, and sets the witty and thoughtful tone. Tavis L. Baker is jaunty and lighthearted as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, while allowing for the sadness he feels over how bitter his uncle has become. Kila Packett is devastating as Bob Cratchit. Rarely have I seen this character so beautifully realized, from his sweet dedication to his family to his unspeakable grief, Packett infuses Cratchit with the power of a father’s love.
Daisy Donohue enchants as a beautiful ghost of Christmas Present in an impossibly grand and sumptuous red silk gown. Grace Hawthorn is lovely as Belle and the scene where she decides to leave Ebenezer is particularly poignant. Joey Major goes toe to toe with her as a young, ambitious Ebenezer and is a silent, ominous figure as the ghost of Christmas Future. Michaela Ivey is feisty in all of their roles, giving Mrs. Cratchit a bit more bite than usual and is the most ethereal of the ghosts as they guide Scrooge through the Christmases of his past.
The children are fantastic with Oona B. Cassell and Alice Marie giving lovely, charming performances of Belinda Cratchit, Fred’s daughter and most of all, Ebenezer’s sister, Little Fan. G. Livius Rajan captivates in his multiple roles of Child Scrooge, the boy who buys the turkey “as big as me”, and Tiny Tim.
When they began, I couldn’t imagine how they would tell this entire story in 55 minutes, but this powerful ensemble does just that and takes us on a magical journey that employs innovative stagecraft that turns the simple and ordinary into something exceptional.
A Christmas Carol runs through December 18, 2022. Performances take place Fridays at 7:00pm and Saturdays and Sundays at 5:00pm from December 2 through 18, 2022 at South Pasadena Theatre Workshop at 1507 El Centro Street, South Pasadena.
Tickets are available for $20 for adults and $15 for children and students when using promo code CHILD at online checkout. Tickets can be reserved online at www.southpasadenatheatreworkshop.com. Cash only at the door.
The show runs for one hour with no intermission. Children over the age of 5 years old are welcome. Masks are required inside the theatre.