LB Playhouse’s A Christmas Carol: Airy, Ghostly Version

By John Farrell, Curtain Call Writer

Cynics would say that Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol is done to death every December.

Cynics (including this reviewer) have seen A Christmas Carol so often that, when an actor goes up on his lines we feel the urge to shout out the words for him. We have them engraved on our brains.

But there are plenty of audience members out there who haven’t seen A Christmas Carol fifteen times in four years or so. They are the ones buying the mulled wine to take in with them; they are the ones who clap along with the music at Fezziwig’s Christmas party, who cheer Tiny Tim’s “God bless us, every one.” They laugh in all the right places (and a few wrong places) and generally have a great time that cynics can only admire.

That was the case with A Christmas Carol at the Long Beach Playhouse on opening night. There were a few cynics in the nearly sold-out house, but there were hundreds of others who loved every minute of the Playhouse version of Dickens, a one-act, one-hour-and-ten-minute version that hit all the highlights, used the stage effectively, boasted a fine Scrooge and an effective cast, including a Tiny Tim who was authentically tiny but also spoke her lines with firm conviction (and a loud voice).

Scrooge is always the center of every Christmas Carol, of course, and the conversation after the play is always about how mean Scrooge is. Rick Kopps is the Playhouses’ Scrooge. He looks the part lean and scraggly in a more than slightly worn frock coat. He isn’t as mean as many would like, but part of that is because this version removes much of Scrooge’s opportunity to be mean. Kopps is impressive and articulate. His conversion at the play’s end is affecting and moving.

Tiny Tim is Kruiz Mauga, making her Long Beach Playhouse debut. She doubles as one of the play’s narrators as well as the young Cratchet. She is small, all right, but as effective as many of her taller colleagues. From the moment she walks on stage you have to notice her.

The play is deftly worked around a big bed on the thrust stage, with the cast coming on to start the story and deftly moving the props and sets as needed. Many people play more than one role. Director Sharyn Case uses Andrew Vonderschmitt’s simple sets effectively. This version is supposed to emphasize the ghost story at the center of A Christmas Carol and the final ghost, Christmas Past, is a larger than life three-person puppet which is effectively scary.

Stephen Saatjian is effective as Bob Cratchet. Julian Fernandez is personable and very tolerant as Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Victoria Young plays Mrs. Cratchet, doubles as Mrs. Fezziwig and a couple of other smaller characters. Doug Seagraves is genuinely spooky as Jacob Marley. Dean Figone is a lit-up spirit of Christmas Present and Juliana Perez is an attractive Ghost of Christmas Past.

This A Christmas Carol isn’t the most spectacular, or the most scenic, but it is a fine evening at the theater for those who aren’t cynical and for those who want to introduce their children to what is — even to cynics — an important part of the Christmas season.

Tickets are $24, $21 for seniors and $14 for students. Performances are at 8 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21, and at 2 p.m. Dec. 22.

Details: (562) 494-1014www.lbplayhouse.org
Venue: Long Beach Playhouse Mainstage Theater
Location:5021 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach

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