A Christmas Carol

by REBECCA HALAT and ADAM SCHENCK.

J.C. Cutler (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Tracey Maloney (Ghost of Christmas Past) in the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala. Photo by Dan Norman

J.C. Cutler (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Tracey Maloney (Ghost of Christmas Past) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala. Photo by Dan Norman

Christmastime is a reminder that our best stories are not new. The Guthrie’s annual production of A Christmas Carol is just such a story. How then to make the old familiar story new?

The Guthrie celebrates its 40th year of A Christmas Carol this year, and this classic production delights as much as ever.  I reviewed the same play three years ago, and it seems that there were some minor changes (but nothing to offend the traditionalists) that kept me engaged and interested in the performance.  The set design, costumes, and choreography all do well to bring you into the holiday season.

One thing that has changed is blocking: with a new set of young actors, this production had strong energy. New actor to the Guthrie stage Bear Brummel portrays Scrooge’s nephew with particular humor and verve.

The three spirits act as political teachers for Scrooge’s cold soul. Scrooge, as portrayed by J.C. Cutler, discovers that experience has hardened him politically and emotionally, such that he betrays his basic human decency. Director Joe Chvala creates a world that blends humor with a lesson in humility—in fact, this was probably the funniest production of A Christmas Carol I’ve ever seen.

But A Christmas Carol isn’t a comedy, and I always forget that the story itself is really quite scary. The Guthrie’s production of it certainly

Members of the cast of the Guthrie Theater's production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala. Photo by Dan Norman.

Members of the cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala. Photo by Dan Norman.

highlights its haunting nature. Ghosts and spirits are portrayed exceedingly well through costume, lighting, and sound effects.

If you are new to the theater, or want to introduce a young child to live performance, this is a great way to do so. I noticed many parents and grandparents accompanied by young children. It’s a familiar story that most people have encountered somewhere, and even the most easily distracted individual would be focused on the stage. You just may want to prepare the young ones for the haunting images and sudden lights and sounds.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell and directed by Joe Chvala runs November 13-December 28, 2014 at the Guthrie Theater, 818 South 2nd Street, Minneapolis, MN. Tickets $34-116 at 612-377-2224 or at http://www.guthrietheater.org

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