Chesapeake Shakespeare’s Christmas Carol mounted in Baltimore (review)

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Chesapeake Shakespeare’s Christmas Carol mounted in Baltimore (review)

This year, should you see only one Dickens’ Christmas story, allow it to be Chesapeake Shakespeare’s great set-in-Baltimore A Christmas Jean. It has all of it and then several: a lovely scary John Marley’s Ghosting (but not really too daunting for the tiny folk), plenty of music, bouncing, good actress’, superior fancy dress costumes, and a lightness and joy towards the production.

Everyone seems to be clearly enjoying themselves here: Gregory Burgess when Ebenezer Scrooge is lovely cross and cowardly when he meets his Ghosts of Christmas; you are find yourself rooting for the buzzard, wonderful switcheroo to new do-gooder is, if the bit rapid, heartfelt. A lot of cast individuals have fine turns: Bernard R Bintram in particular when Mr Fezziwig is just as infectiously jolly whenever you could ask for the purpose of. His long-winded speech on the party wonderful succeeding rocky dance can be described as scene stealer.

As The Ghost of Christmas Previous, Laura Rocklyn is a great ethereal charm, aided in no little part by glorious voile costume with tiny fairy lights stitched in the skirts and hairpiece. James Jager as Joe Cratchit gives a human confront to what is usually a cardboard boxes downtrodden persona, and Michael jordan P Sullivan has an suddenly grand comedy turn in the little part of Chicken Man.

There’s plenty of music and dance in this production, and not all of it dusty period stuff. Before the show even starts, actors and musicians in full costume are serenading us onstage. It’s quite a treat to see the Ghost of Christmas Present belt out ‘Feliz Navidad’ as you enter the theater.

And it isn’t only the actors using a fine time: costumes, which span several decades during Scrooge’s visits to Christmas Past, Present and Long term, are just spot on. Costume Developer Kristina Lambdin delights in finding just the right patterns and materials to make historic pieces come alive, and some from the finer details, such as Chicken Man’s hat and Fezziwig’s suit, are enough to bring a smile to your face even if you know nothing about costume history of the 1800s.

The set is likewise fine detail oriented: the main setpiece is a well crafted two-story Baltimore rowhouse exterior by Technical Director Daniel O’Brien. Modeled on the three-quarters in the round original Globe Theatre, Chesapeake Shakespeare could cut corners on its few furnishings and props, but that isn’t the case here: there are fine Victorian pieces for a parlor picture and two really nice 1840s pigeonhole clerk’s desks in Scrooge’s office.

Gregory Burgess as Scrooge, Michael P. Sullivan because Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol at Chesapeake Shakespeare. (Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Shakespeare)
Gregory Burgess as Scrooge, Michael P. Sullivan because Jacob Marley in A Christmas Carol at Chesapeake Shakespeare. (Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Shakespeare)
Though mention must be made that some of the tricks should be better disguised: it’s very nifty when ever Scrooge’s tombstone retracts in to the mists- although not so great to see the stagehands visibly carrying it away; a bit of dark cloth which scene could have had a lot of impact the director planned.

Other displays were much more seamless: for instance , the entry of the Ghosting of John Marley was superb, including eerie sound clips and haze. And even though you understand he’s coming- well, just who doesn’t understand the story simply by now- awesome, such an entry!

And talking about history, you may want to brush up about local background: the edition by Artsy Director Ian Gallaner can be peppered with references to Baltimore and the citizens- circa 1843, the season Dickens composed his classic story. It has rather entertaining, even if we are no longer quite sure what all the hubbub surrounding then-President Martin Vehicle Buren was all about. The adaptation could be overlong for some, with its direct-from-Dickens dialogue: yes, it’s Dickens, but after 150+ years. Some slight cutting might speed items along. Each time a show is usually clearly designed to be a family members event, coming in under two hours would be a plus.

Director Scott Alan Small had a fine time, too- so many little details are in this production, most of them easily missed. Look carefully at the Christmas dinner picture at Bob Cratchit’s: an additional biscuit is usually broken up into smaller and smaller pieces, to be shared by the whole family. No fireworks, just a sweet fine detail underplayed, and one which encapsulates the whole tale.

As I possess mentioned in previous evaluations, if you haven’t been to Chesapeake Shakespeare, it is well worth a trek to Baltimore just to step into their glorious new theatre. A modern interpretation from the original Globe Theatre, it has some of the most comfy seating and the most relaxed atmosphere you could think about, with the club open throughout the show rather than a bad seat in the house.

Ian Gallaner’s fine adaptation – A Christmas Carol – who says a Dickens Christmas has to be in London – has become a Chesapeake Shakespeare tradition. Come to Baltimore and find some holiday spirit this year!

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