Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Carol starring John Harrell

John Harrell in A Christmas Carol. Photo by Michael Bailey.
My first experience at "A Christmas Carol" last year was not a good one. While I thoroughly enjoyed the performance, the crowd was a teeming mass that made it all but impossible to enjoy the play. Last night we attended the "Pay What You Will" performance and the crowd was huge, but this time much better behaved. The problem with crowds for Christmas Carol is that they are not the typical Blackfriars Playhouse crowd. This is more of a crowd that is there because of tradition-- they just have to go see "A Christmas Carol" just like they have to spend a third of their salary on junky Christmas gifts. Also, unlike most shows at the ASC, this is a small child friendly performance, so you will have a lot more children in attendance, and they will naturally get restless at points. Anyway, when you go see "A Christmas Carol" keep these factors in mind.

This year John Harrell dons the nightcap of Ebeneezer Scrooge, and does a wonderful job with it. He played the role in 2007 and takes over for James Keegan who played Scrooge the past two years. Keegan, a stage master, plays a meaner Scrooge, one that I wouldn't care to go toe to toe with. Harrell plays a more nuanced, snively, snarky, but vulnerable Scrooge. You feel like you could totally kick his ass but you better not try because he has the money and position to make you regret it. Harrell is capably backed by the Reckless Ecstasy touring troupe, led by an amazingly thoughtful performance by Chad Bradford as The Narrator. The Narrator is a vital role in this play, though it can easily be dismissed because who takes note of a character called The Narrator? Well, Bradford makes sure he is seen and remembered in his performance by interacting more (physically) with Scrooge and the audience. Husband and wife team Jake Mahler and Denice Burbach make a wonderful Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim. Rick Blunt is indeed a Christmas Present as he plays the role of The Ghost of Christmas Present. Rick can make you smile just with his presence. Daniel Jimenez is hilarious as the Plump Sister and a half-dozen other roles. Jonathan Holtzman had some kids squirming as the Jacob Marley, the ever-charming Ginna Hoben delighted as the Ghost of Christmas Past. Aidan O'Reilly reprises his role as Fred, the nephew of Scrooge and Natasha Solomon, Dennis Henry, Kelley McKinnon, and Brandi Rhome play various roles in the Cratchit family/townsfolk, etc.

Following the show we sat in on the well-attended and informative Talk Back. Unfortunately, the crowd was so large that it was hard to hear the pre-show and interlude music even though I was sitting on stage. 

I will be seeing the show again the day after Christmas and look forward to seeing it again.

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