A Christmas Carol

Ben Miles
The cast of South Coast Repertory's 2013 production of A Christmas Carol.

The enduring story of "A Christmas Carol" began as a novella by Englishman Charles Dickens. When it was initially penned in1843, it was titled "A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas." Over the centuries the tale has been told through various media, starting with print and including cinema, television and stage. 

One of the most unique and memorable incarnations of "A Christmas Carol" is the theatrical version being staged at Orange County's South Coast Rep. This SCR perennial has become a holiday ritual in The OC. Now in its thirty-seventh year, with the marvelous Hal Landon Jr. heading the cast as Ebenezer Scrooge as he's done every performance since SCR inaugurated this Yuletide tradition, this "Christmas Carol" is a show the doesn't grow old or lose its poignancy. 

Still using the script adapted by Jerry Patch and under the stalwart direction of John-David Keller (who's been helming "Carol" since it first graced the SCR main stage in 1979 and who also performs in it as Mr. Fezziwig), the themes and stagecraft have remained consistent in quality and audience satisfaction throughout the years. (Thomas Buderwitz's scenic design and Richard Dwight Odle's costuming have been mainstays in this seasonal celebration; Donna and Tom Ruzika's affective lighting helps set the chilly scene and Drew Dalzell's sound design echoes the cityscape of 19th century London.)

What changes in this archetypal tale of redemption – Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly misanthrope who rails at the notion Christmas, but is redeemed after visitations from three ghosts – is certain members of the cast. Of course, the child actors (in over a dozen roles) are double cast. At the performance reviewed, Tiny Tim was sweetly played by Nikolas Harris. 

Nevertheless, this ensemble of performers is committed to conveying the story and all do so with freshness and élan.  Daniel Blinkoff, for example, is in his fourteenth year playing Bob Cratchit and Jennifer Parsons is in her twelfth season as Mrs. Cratchit. Richard Doyle, a SCR founding artists does admirable duty as the spirit of Christmas past for the thirty-first time and the spirit of Christmas present is again embodied by Timothy Landfield. Kimberly Scott and Larry Bates are fresh faces in the cast as Mrs. Fezziwig and Jacob Marley, respectively, while Erika Schindele recreates her roles as a laundress, Belle and a scavenger.

But it is Hal Landon Jr. who provides the center of gravity for this durable show. His physical fluidity, his clear enunciation and his sheer endurance make him a living legend in the annals of local theater. What’s more, he doesn’t miss a beat or a hat trick in this latest staging (if you’ve seen the show you know what I mean by hat trick, if not, see the show).

For those in the holiday spirit or for those wishing to get into the spirit, SCR’s “A Christmas Carol” is a perfect place to be. The show continues through December 24. For ticket information and reservations, call (714)708-5500. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.scr.org




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