A Christmas Carol
The Garden Theater
By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Michael Wilson
Directed by Jeremy Seghers
Starring Bobby Bell, Janine Papin, Stephen Lima and Max Kelly
Winter Garden, FL
What better way to celebrate the birth of Jesus than tell a ghost story? Chances are good you’ve seen this tale of capitalism, redemption and rejuvenation. But if you grew up on Mars, pay attention: in Victorian England, capitalism and industrialization and better health care cause a population explosion in London. Capitalist have the whip hand, workers grovel for pennies and the chance to dodge starvation. While Ebenezer Scrooge (Bell) is fabulously wealthy, he lives like a monk and hoards his money for no good reason besides doing it. He reluctantly gives his clerk Bob Cratchit (Stephen Lima) a day off, gets a warning lecture from the ghost of his dead (and presumable equally cheap) partner Joseph Marley (Papin), and due to poor health, no exercise and paint chips in his dinner, he has a series of dreams that scare the reindeer poop out of him. The next day he shapes up, promotes Cratchit to partner, and reconciles with his perennial broke Nephew. Hopefully, Cratchit won’t turn to the dark side; let’s check back in a decade.
Mr. Bell staked out a homestead on this show; I’ve seen in him in the role many times since my earliest days covering Theater Downtown. He’s good at it, and irony is he’s the least Scrooge like guy I know. That’s good acting. Mr. Lima also appears uncharacteristically meek; he’s another tough guy on stage who can play the weak man when needed. But my favorite onstage performance comes from Alaric Frinzi as Spirit of Christmas Past. He danced around in a ball gown dispensing glitter at any moving object, and they may never get all that glitter out of the carpet. That leaves the genuine everyman here, Fred (Kelly). He’s just happy, moderately well off, and funny in a self -effacing manner.
Christmas Carols com and Christmas Carols go, and even though “The Christmas Story” makes a good run at the top holiday production, this show will likely survive till the next millennia. This Garden Theater production is crisp, refreshing, and sparkly, and suitable for even old curmudgeons like me. Zip out as fast as you can, lest you be stuck in the back woods of row R. That’s where the sound delay starts to become noticeable.