A postcard review of Theatre Calgary’s classic A Christmas Carol

The holidays are not complete without Theatre Calgary’s production of A Christmas Carol. Caroline Russell-King tells us about this year’s production.

Show: A Christmas Carol.

Playwright/s: Adapted by Dennis Garnhum, based on the novella by Charles Dickens.

Production Company/Theatre space: Theatre Calgary, Max Bell Theatre, Arts Commons.

Length: Two acts (two hours, one intermission).

Genre/s: Fantasy.

Premise: A miserly man is visited by four ghosts on the seventh anniversary of his business partner’s death, being shown his life as it was, is, and may become if he he doesn’t change his views.

Why this play? Why now?: Somewhat depressingly as the gap widens between the one per cent and the rest of us, this story still has resonance 165 years later.

Curiosities: I wondered if there was a solution for the wobbly walls descending from the fly. I also wondered if the house could have been opened sooner for the Relaxed Performance so that those with mobility issues could have had somewhere to sit.

Notable lines: I think, “Bah Humbug,” is one of the most iconic catchphrases. Doing the math for its repetition at TC during rehearsal and performance over the years I calculated it had been said just under a thousand times.

Notable writing: I have seen every reiteration of this text in Calgary since 1989 (even writing an adaption of my own) and Garnhum’s script puts the emphasis on “Carol” with festive singing sprinkled throughout the narrative.

Notable performances: Some sort of Christmas miracle must be at work to make Stephen Hair’s performance as sincere as it is. The man never phones it in. Olivia Collier may be the most diminutive performer putting the “Tiny” in Tiny Tim and winning over the audience with her puppy-like demeanour.

Notable design/Production: Wobbly walls aside, I still love the light sapphire jewel of a set designed by Patrick Clark.

Notable direction: Simon Mallett having proven his mettle at the “A” house, can move on now to even bigger stages.

One reason to see this show: I haven’t seen a production of this play since my husband played Marley and Past at TC 10 years ago. I thought I was too cynical to cry at the end, but that proved to be wrong. It really is a treasure.

(Photo of A Christmas Carol featuring, from left to right, Stephen Hair and Robert Klein, courtesy Trudie Lee.)

Theatre Calgary’s A Christmas Carol runs in the Max Bell Theatre, Arts Commons until Dec. 23.

Caroline Russell-King is a playwright, dramaturg, and instructor. She is a member of The Playwrights Guild of Canada, the Dramatist Guild of America and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You can find her work here