Monday, November 23, 2009

A Christmas Carol....

Last Wednesday Keith and I saw the final dress rehearsal for this year's production of A Christmas Carol at The Guthrie in Minneapolis. We are dear friends with the family of one of the little girls in the show and we were given tickets by them.

I saw A Christmas Carol at The Guthrie about 10+ years ago, and hated it. A Lot. So the thought of sitting through basically the same production wasn't an appealing idea to me. Keith had never seen it, so he didn't really have an opinion on the matter. But we both wanted to see dear little Emily very badly, so there was no question as to whether we would go or not. Plus, with tickets being $70 - $20 each, seeing it for free was a no brainer!
This years production is being billed as "a brand new 90-minute adaptation perfectly suited for families of all sizes, theatergoers young and old. " Yet, the tickets are still $70 - $20 each, which doesn't seem family friendly at all. But I digress....
I am a HUGE fan of the Dicken's book, so I am very critical of film and stage versions of the story. My favorite is the 1984 TV version starring George C. Scott as "Scrooge". I have never seen a stage version that I liked, including the one I was in at The Mall of America, where I played the "Ghost of Christmas Present" and "Young Marley". Terrible production.

So, my expectations were not high for the final dress at The Guthrie. I knew Emily would be adorable and very good in the show (and of course she was). But as soon as I walked in and saw the same "shadowbox" set with the giant handless clock on it that I saw years before, I knew it was going to be a long night. To my surprise, the show was better than the previous one I saw, however is still wasn't what I would have liked to see.

TV actor Peter Michael Goetz was a competent "Scrooge". His opening scenes in the money lending office were his best in the play. As with many actors who play the part, I never really felt his reformation. He simply said his lines the same way, but with a smile on his face. With that said, Mr. Goetz was able to make me cry...when he accepted a hug from his nephew Fred, played by Rober Berdahl, on Christmas morning. The moment was brilliantly played by both actors. I had higher hopes from Mr. Goetz after seeing his first scene, but sadly he didn't follow through. He started off on a nice progression, but stayed stagnant through most of the play. I saw pain in his eyes over the situation with his younger self and "Belle" (played by John Skelley and Prentis Standridge), but the same pain wasn't there when he witnessed the pathetic Crachit family later on. He simply seemed bored instead.
And speaking of bored, let's discuss the performance of Charity Jones as the "Ghost of Christmas Past"....
Many years ago, I saw Ms. Jones play "Belle" in a stage version of the original French fairy tale of Beauty and the Beast. She was stunning. I simply fell in love with her performance. Then a short time later she played "Glinda" in a stage version of Baum's book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. She was perfect....poised, beautiful, wise. She became a Twin Cities favorite of mine. So, all these years later, when I saw she was playing the Christmas Past Ghost, I got very excited...only to be let down with a boring, uninspired performance. She seemed like she didn't want to be there. Her lines were simply spoken and her face blank. It was as if a Stepford Wife had taken over the role. Her costume was odd...looking more like a goofy porcelain doll than a "spirit" of any kind. I was greatly disappointed in her all around. When waiting for Emily after the show, I saw Ms. Jones leaving. Normally I would have killed for the chance to meet her and gush over her. But not that night....instead I just glared.
Steven Epp played "Jacob Marley" and, unfortunately, "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come". As "Marley", he came off as an angry biker. No misery, no remorse, no repentance. Just anger. As "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come", he was distracting. Having seen the same actor play the first ghost we meet, then having him play the last just didn't work. Not to mention the fact that the costumer gave him giant "Frankenstein" boots to make him taller....
Lee Mark Nelson as "Bob Cratchit" was my favorite of the evening. I now have a HUGE crush on this man. He was funny when he needed to be funny, pathetic and his breakdown at Tiny Tim's funeral was very real and painful. I wish he had been in the show more!!! he played the family man perfectly. he had a wonderful scene where all his children jumped him and wrestled him to the ground. He seemed right at home surrounded by this gaggle of kids. I just wanted to hug him!

But we were there to see Emily Albert Stauning, the future stage star of the Twin Cities. This is a little girl who simply "gets it", no matter what she's playing. I have dreams if he playing Dorothy for me in the RSC version of The Wizard of Oz someday. I love this kid. She has a focus on stage that most adults don't have. She is a professional and a trooper. I wish there had been a role in the A Christmas Carol she could have done to show her talent, but little girl roles are very limited. She was creepy and pathetic as "Want", the disgusting little child brought by the Ghost of Christmas Present. And as a street urchin, no one did a better job. Seriously, this kid is perfect in everything she does! I want to clone her for MY daughter!!!!
Overall the evening was fun. As always, it was great to see the Stauning family. They are wonderful friends. It was fun to see a final dress at The Guthrie. You could hear the director giving notes to the stage manager. All the production photos I've posted here were taken that night. I just wish that The Guthrie, which uses Dicken's novel as the their bread and butter for the Christmas season, would get the story right....just once.

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