A Christmas Carol
Orlando Shakes • Orlando, Florida
Starring Nigel Gore, Mark Edward Smith, E. Mani Cadet, and Timothy Williams
Written and Directed by Jim Helsinger
by Carl F. Gauze
I finished shoveling out my driveway (three leaves had fallen, blocking my exit) and trundled over to the catch the annual ceremony of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, possibly one of the most revered and produced piece of stagecraft known to man. And as always, the Orlando Shakes production hit all the right notes, nailing the story and putting their various stage tricks to good use, over and over. The story is a true chestnut, ready for roasting. Ebenezer Scrooge (Gore) loves money more than anything else, perhaps because that’s all he has. There’s no family for support, no one to look after him in his dotage, and when he dies, there will be no one attending his small wake. After bah humbugging his nephew Fred (Giuseppe Pipicella) away, Scrooge retreats to his humble yet panoramic view of nothing. Ghosts appear, he blames it on spoiled food, and the spirits of the underworld proceed to shame him back into basic human decency. Along the way, he recalls his own childhood and its lack of friends, various spirits show him what he’s missing as he drops in on the Clark family, who invite him over for reindeer games, and lastly a premonition of his last days and how the street people will mock his remaining shirt and shoes. Apparently Scrooge is really scared by the poor opinion the graveyard scroungers have of his clothes. In his own way, Scrooge is vain, but unlike his business acumen, he has no idea how to impress those who outlive him, miserable as they may be.
So how was the show? The show was wonderful, with liberal use of the trap to bring actors and props on and off stage. Gore was suitably grumpy and pathetic as the lead, never knowing just what passes outside the counting house. Inside it’s all farthings and shillings and halfpennies, all wonderful obscure bits of currency that in their day could be traded for a pint of beer and gristly roast beef. Mr. Williams is the abused Cratchit, whose job it is to write numbers with a quill pen while trying hard to keep his ink from freezing. Various fundraisers drop in for their annual abuse, Cratchit asks Scrooge over for dinner, which he rejects perhaps because the food isn’t properly spoiled and the wine isn’t watered to his standards of miserliness. A dozen or so small children added color and energy to the stage, all emitting deadly cuteness rays. The ghosts stood tall and wonderful, with chains wrapping up the evening’s winter wonderland of creepy. Am I redeemed by all this? Perhaps. This is the only Christmas Carol I’ll see this year. Is it well done? Of course. This is the pinnacle of this professional season of stagecraft, and no tricks are neglected, no light effects unlit, and everyone here packs a lifetime of making this rather odd ghost story into a cultural icon.
You can’t go wrong here, because if you do, a ghost will pop up and scare you back into the theater for another round of happiness.