Tuesday, December 7, 2004

University Theatre's production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

I saw this show on Saturday, which happened to be the last night it was playing, so for those of you who missed it, tough luck and be sure to check out University Theatre in the future. I'm not normally a big fan of A Christmas Carol, I've seen all the movies, read the book and even seen it live a few times. Generally I like it, but it doesn't impress me anymore. Actually, aside from the political points it makes and the fact that it was well written, it never did. But this show impressed me from the minute I walked in the door. Actually before I even walked in. As we walked up to the UGA fine arts building several men dressed in Victorian Costumes were singing Christmas Carols. The cast continued to interact with the audience while we were waiting in the lobby to get tickets and sitting in our seats, waiting for the show to begin, staying in character the whole time. They scolded us and teased us and encouaged us to sing the twelve days of chistmas with the whole cast. I was never sure exactly when the show started and that was part of the fun. It was like being at the Renissance Faire or Williamsburg. They incorperated the usual bits about cell phones , fundraising , and promoting future shows into the act. All the extras and bit parts did an excellent job of acting as narrators throughout.
The set was amazing. It swung out so that we could see the inside and the outside of buildings. Having worked backstage myself several times I can hardly image how much work and how much money it took to build that set. Much was said about the special media effects. Although they were nice, I was only truly impressed by one or two. In the first scene a video screen was set up to show people outside scrooge and marley's window. Also the ghost of christmas past's dress swirled with images from scrooges' past. I felt both of these media effects really added something to the play that couldn't have been achieved otherwise.
I think this was the first time I have ever seen "A Christmas Carol" done as a comedy. I had always thought of it as a very serious story. I can't really explain why, except that the actors were largely responsible for this. The extras especially Old Joe (name to be added later), the Charwomen (insert name here), and the Undertaker (you got it), really stood out. The MFA student who played old scrooge (blank) was equally impressive. He brought a lot of depth and humanity to this charactor that I have never noticed before. Although he portrayed scrooge as the classic old miser with out a sense of humor himself, he used his portrayal to make scrooge and the situations comical. One of the things that made his character so comical was when he traveled with the spirits Scrooge consistantly and convincingly tried to interact with the other characters even when he knew he could not. The whole audiance was laughing all the way through. Piotr Stapor as young Scrooge deserves a mention, because I saw him in the Homecoming, as a very different character and he showed that he has deversity as well as a good grasp of character and emotion. I would like to stress that this role would have stood out anyway, because he played it so well.
I would like to applaud the director(), with a particular mention of the two party scenes. I have noticed that party scenes are difficult to stage, because many people assume that as long as some people are dancing and some people are talking or sitting it looks natural. In particular I liked the husband and the wife trying to learn how to dance (Fezziwig), and the part where the couple flirting kissing under the mistletoe(nephew). I realize the mistletoe is written into the script, but the director had someone bring the mistletoe over the couple's head which added a nice touch.
On the other hand I have a few fine points I would like to make, about things I did not like. First of all, in the scene where his girlfriend(name ommited out of professional courtesy) leaves young scrooge, I felt that she overacted and was overdramatic to the point where I wasn't very convinced she was sincere. Secondly,the lowering of the screen projector bothered me. It was too obvious. Basically that was it. There may have been other problems, but I wasn't really aware of them.
The curtain call was well done. They were all already on stage, and it began to snow. I especially liked how the cast sang a Christmas Carol as they took their bows. It kept the same sense that you had from the beginning, that you weren't watching a play but being transported into an event.

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