When, in 1843, Charles Dickens published a novella called A Christmas Carol, he had no idea that 180 years later, scores of regional theaters across America would be producing stage versions of the durable ghost story. And for many of them, it would be an annual event, the biggest moneymaker of the season.
Now following in that tradition is the Maltz Jupiter Theatre, with a new brisk and brief – 70 intermissionless minutes – adaptation by Paul Carlin, who also happens to be playing the most famous and infamous miser in all of literature, Ebenezer Scrooge.
The familiar tale of the Victorian penny-pincher’s conversion to a generous and charitable soul is, in theory at least, suitable for the whole family. But Carlin’s admirable use of much of Dickens’ text and dialogue makes for a wordy experience that – judging from the quickly fidgety tots sitting in front of me – may not appeal to low-attention-span youngsters.
That’s too bad, because with the production’s colorful costumes, attractive scenic design, holiday carols and touches of genuine magic, this could have been a great introduction to the theater for little ones. For adults who know the story, though, this Christmas Carol is likely to feel overly conventional and sketchy. The Dickens narrative comes through efficiently enough, but it lacks a point of view, a compelling reason to re-visit this perennial tale.
On the other hand, if you are looking for a dose of comfort food theater to jump-start your holiday season, an evening of a tried-and-true yarn of redemption with a touch of the supernatural, this could be the show for you.
Veteran Maltz director Mark Martino (The Music Man, Les Miserables and 11 other shows here) leans on the stagecraft in telling the Dickens tale, including a finale snowstorm throughout the auditorium. He enlists illusion designer Skylar Fox to up the production’s magic quotient, including the blink-of-an-eye exits of the ghosts that will bring to mind another Dickens character namesake – David Copperfield.
Playing Scrooge at the matinees is Wayne LeGette, who anchors the production well and avoids the usual crotchety caricature that many a Christmas Carol traffics in. Curt Denham makes a fine chains-clanging Jacob Marley, then later returns as the Ghost of Christmas Present, who has a creepy surprise under his green velvet robe. Lindsey Corey delivers a robust song solo as Martha Cratchit, bookkeeper Bob’s eldest daughter, and a chorus of 18 candle-toting carolers – undoubtedly culled from the theater’s Goldner Conservatory – up the show’s cast count.
Factor in so many sumptuous period costumes that require the work of three designers (Brooks Behrens, Chelsea Tuffy, Kelly Wilkinson), plus visually striking projections of old London by Zak Borovay, and you have a production that rises to the Maltz’s high standards.
Attractive to look at, but not particularly satisfying, this Christmas Carol needs further work if the Maltz hopes to bring it back for Christmases Future.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Maltz Jupiter Theatre, 1001 E. Indiantown Road, Jupiter. Through Sunday, Dec. 10. $50 – $95. 561-575-2223.