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A Christmas Carol

a Family Play
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA MUSICAL
by Waally Hinds

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3893

SHOWING : November 26, 2010 - December 24, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

Charles Dickens shows us Ebenezer Scrooge as he falls asleep in his dingy, cold quarters on Christmas Eve. The old miser is visited by three ghosts, each revealing to Scrooge his wrong doings and what will happen if he continues in his evil ways. This traditional holiday classic for the whole family is filled with old English Christmas Carols guaranteed to fill you with the Christmas spirit and warm your heart.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Tightening it Up
by Dedalus
Saturday, January 15, 2011
4.0
Last year, I criticized Kudzu’s “Christmas Carol” for, among other things, unnecessary padding and too many ill-paced scenes. (I even titled my column “Stretching it Out!”) This year, I’m happy to report that most (not all) of the pacing problems have been tightened up, and the “padding” sequencing and songs seem more integral to the story and to setting the “Victorian Christmas” mood. Indeed, Kudzu Playhouse’s adaption has a lot to recommend it, including a nicely conceptualized set, a beautifully voice-blended troupe of carolers, a number of performances that hold up well, and a truly surprising whiz-bang tech gimmick to usher in the Ghost of Christmas present.

As to what I considered “padding” last year, in adapter (and director) Wally Hinds’ defense, it must be said that Dickens was notoriously wordy (he was, after all, paid by the word) and tended to fill his novels and stories with digressions and repetitions and wildly over-done descriptions and mood-sequences. In fact, the biggest challenge to any adapter of Dickens is resisting the urge to treat “every word as sacred,” and to be merciless in the editing process. (An interesting digression – Dickens’s own “public performance” prompt book for “Carol” shows he was himself ruthless in pruning his text.)

Like last year, I really liked the look and design of the production. The set was essentially a crowded brick street, segments of which would rotate to reveal interiors and other settings. It was perhaps a (small) misstep to place Scrooge’s bedchambers on a second floor – it was a source for some long scene changes giving the actors time to climb down, and presented “through the light grid” sight-line problems from the back of the house. It was nevertheless a good look and emphasized the cramped conditions of Victorian London, and the transitions seemed much shorter than last year.

Costuming too added to the look of the show, nicely recalling all the generations of “Carols” and Scrooges and Ghosts (oh my!) we have come to expect. Lighting stayed in the blue and amber ranges, beautifully evoking the candle-lit nighttime of a pre-incandescent city. And the electronic imagery leading into the “Christmas Present” segments worked beautifully – even if it seems an odd choice when you stop to think about it.

In the central role of Scrooge, Brink Miller (for the umpteenth time) dives in with gusto. He hits all the right notes, scowling and humbugging through the first half, and joyfully celebrating at the end. Too often, community theaters tend to fall back on a “by-the-numbers” been-there seen-that Scrooge, but Mr. Brink brings some individuality to the part, keeping the character fresh and alive for this telling.

As to the supporting cast, director Wally Hinds shows up in a number of roles and plays them all to the hilt. Sally Henry is a clever and winsome Belle, who managed to break my heart when she sang “Greensleeves” at her final parting from Scrooge. And Cynthia Ross makes for a stern and loving Mrs. Cratchit. The myriad troupe of youngsters filling out the Cratchit family and the rest of the ensemble are also “wrangled” well, no doubt a tribute to Mr. Hinds’ long history working with kids.

In the final analysis, then, this show has a lot to recommend it. It has a very VERY large cast, is totally family-friendly, and has been a Kudzu holiday mainstay for many years. My own daughter really enjoyed it, though that may owe a lot to seeing a number of her old friends in the cast.

It saddens me to think that this may be the last we see of this particular adaptation. Kudzu must vacate this venue by next month, and has yet to find a new home. I wish Wally and Jeannie Hinds the best in their next endeavors, and sincerely hope this “Carol” finds a new home for the holidays in 2011.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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