In introducing “A Christmas Carol” to Thursday’s matinee audience at Temple Theatre, Artistic Director Peggy Taphorn said the show was the beginning of a Christmas tradition in Sanford.
This should please the ghost of Christmases future.
The Charles Dickens classic comes to Sanford in musical form and features a cast of 38 ranging in age from Tiny Tim to Ebenezer Scrooge. It just so happens that in this production, these two characters come away with the most memorable performances.
You can’t have a good “Christmas Carol” without a solid Scrooge, and Randy Rime brings a curmudgeoness to the role that makes him unlikeable. His speech is crackly, and in the few musical numbers he is involved in, his voice is less than remarkable. But he’s believable, especially his gradual transformation from miser to “born again” with each ghostly visit.
And Makani McKenzie is adorable as Tiny Tim (yes, a little girl as a little boy), and her solo is touching … bringing a tender moment to an otherwise joyous and upbeat production.
With a cast this big, it’s tough to point out all of the solid performances, but a few do rise above the rest. Temple veteran Chris Wright is near perfect as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and Michael Brocki is solid yet again as Bob Cratchit.
The ghosts are both frightening (Stephen Moore’s Jacob Marley and the giant prop that serves as the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come) and funny (Jamey Helsman’s Ghost of Christmas Present and Thomas Dalton’s Ghost of Christmas Past) when they need to be. I suppose I have a positive bias toward Dalton, seeing that he’s a graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University, my college back in Texas.
And something should be said of the several children — both teens and pre-teens — involved in this production who keep up well with their adult counterparts.
Another star is the set (and costume design) as scene changes from Scrooge’s bedroom to a snow-covered street are performed flawlessly. Kudos to scenic artist Tom Barker and scenic designer Eileen Greenbaum-Mintz.
As you can tell, I’ve failed to give a description of the plot, as I feel there are very few who aren’t familiar with this timeless tale. What is interesting (and refreshing) is that this production chooses to keep the religious overtones that were prominent in Dickens’ story. In the hands of Disney and other movie studios, “A Christmas Carol” often leaves out any mention of “the reason for the season.”
But here, “Jesus” and “Christ” appear often in the songs and carols. I’m sure this won’t “offend” many who take in the show.
Sure, there are a few missteps … but they’re minor and not worth mentioning in this limited space. What’s important is that throughout December, you’ll walk out of Temple Theatre humming carols and feeling “Christmassy” after seeing this production. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane will sound like the perfect follow-up.
In other words, there will be very few “bah humbugs.” And isn’t that the point?