TR Robertson — For the 5th season, Cygnet Theatre begins the holiday season with what is becoming a tradition in San Diego, the presentation of “A Christmas Carol”. The Cygnet version is an adaptation by Artistic Director Sean Murray of Charles Dickens 1843 novella. The production is beautifully staged, with classic costumes, an unforgettable cast and a tremendous way to get into the spirit of the holidays.
“A Christmas Carol” has a score by Billy Thompson and Patrick Marion’s accompaniment on piano is masterful. Assisting Murray as his Creative Team is Choreographer Katie Banville, Set Designer Andrew Hull, Costume Designer Jeanne Reith, Lighting Designer Kyle Montgomery, Wig and Make-up Designer Matt Lescault-Wood, Puppet Designers Michael McKeon, Lynne Jennings and Rachel Hengst, Dramaturg Tim West and Stage Manager Craig Campbell. Classic period costumes are based on an original design by Shirley Pierson.
Photos by Ken Jacques
The holiday classic is the story of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge whose only concern is making money at the expense of others. On this Christmas Eve, though, Scrooge is in for a spiritual awakening as he will be visited by three spirits, ghosts, actually four if you count an initial visit by a deceased friend, Jacob Marley. These spirits will show him portions of his Christmas past, Christmas present and Christmas yet to come. Scrooge’s experience will overwhelm him and bring a change to his life that will make a difference in everyone around him.
What make’s Cygnet’s “A Christmas Carol” so special is the warmth and spirit that begins as you enter the theatre. The six actors and actresses greet those entering and break into Christmas songs mixed in with numerous holiday jokes. The performers also lead the audience in a well-choreographed rendition of “The 12 Days of Christmas”. After a greeting by Director Murray, the play starts and we are taken back to London in the 1800’s.
Returning to play the cantankerous Scrooge is Cygnet Resident Artist Tom Stephenson, San Diego Theatre Critics 2014 Actor of the Year. Stephenson has the miserable Scrooge down perfectly, managing a sneer or two directed to the audience. Playing his poor employee, Bob Cratchit, and returning to the role once again is Patrick McBride. McBride also plays Fezziwig, Old Joe and several other characters.
Each of the actors and actresses play a number of roles during the play and Cygnet has once again assembled a talented, strong veteran cast for the play, many of them Cygnet Resident Artists. Craig Noel Award winning actress Melinda Gilb plays a solicitor, Christmas Past, Mrs. Fezziwig, Belinda Cratchit, a laundress and more. San Diego Critics Circle 2016 Female Actor of the Year Melissa Fernandes plays a solicitor, Mrs. Dilbur, Christmas Past, a grocer and Mrs. Cratchit. Charles Evans, Jr. plays Young Scrooge, Peter Cratchit, a business man, and others. Megan Carmitchel plays Boy Scrooge, Martha Cratchit, Belle and numerous other roles. Several of the actors and actresses also handle puppets on stage representing urchins and Tiny Tim.
David McBean returns to Cygnet to play memorable characters that stand out the most in the play. As the ghost of Scrooge’s deceased friend Jacob Marley, McBean enters grey, tattered and torn and wrapped in chains making a most ghoulish sound. As the ghost of Christmas Present, McBean enters with platform shoes, a flowing robe and hair trying to show Scrooge what make Christmas a wonderful time in the year. McBean is also a San Diego Critic’s Circle Craig Noel Award recipient.
Dickens tried to change the social attitudes of the citizens of Britain with his stories. His original purpose in writing the novella was to point out the class differences that existed in the English society and the possibility for change. For us today, we can enjoy a version of the novella, like the play at Cygnet, and as we leave evaluate how we look at and treat others, ask what we need to change about ourselves, and ask what we can do to make these necessary changes.
Get in the Christmas spirit and take in this classic tale. “A Christmas Carol” will be on the Cygnet Theatre Stage until December 30. The Theatre is located at 4040 Twiggs Street in Old Town. Tickets are available at 619-337-1525 or go to www.cygnettheatre.org. Next up for Cygnet will be “Marie and Rosetta” by George Brant, beginning January 16th.