Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Christmas Carol | Review | New York Times

A Christmas Carol’

Published: December 10, 2009


Spare Times: For Children(December 11, 2009)


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Charles Dickens’s holiday classic may be best known as the story of the redemption of a miserly old man, but it is also a tale about children, and not just the too-good-to-be-true Tiny Tim and the other small Cratchits. Boys and girls appear everywhere in its pages, including street urchins, schoolmates, the young Scrooge and his sister, and the lad who helps Scrooge in his first post-transformation good deed.
So it’s especially fitting that Literally Alive Children’s Theater, which adapts its material from literary sources, has filled its “Christmas Carol,” above, with young faces. While the grown-ups are played by adults — including Dustin Cross, an excellent 26-year-old actor and designer (he created the costumes) made up to look elderly as Scrooge — this musical includes a dozen children.
Brenda Bell, who wrote the book and lyrics, and Carlo Rivieccio, who directed, have also introduced comic touches. Holiday singers unleash a surprise cymbal crash on Scrooge’s ears, and when they deliver “Deck the Halls,” he counters with his own “Bah, ha, ha, ha, ha.” He further tickles young theatergoers by growling at a child portraying a dog, who promptly whimpers and runs away. Ms. Bell has slightly softened the short novel’s text as well — there’s no reference to a holiday reveler “boiled with his own pudding and buried with a stake of holly through his heart” — but Scrooge’s cruelty still comes through.
Children will also appreciate the score (this “Christmas Carol” really has Christmas carols), played by Michael Sgouros’s percussion ensemble. When you consider the novel’s many chimes, coins and tolling bells, the instrumentation is apt. Mr. Sgouros and his 12-year-old daughter, Emily, have also written original songs, including “Regret,” a poignant ballad for Scrooge.
Yet as welcoming as this production is — like all the theater’s hourlong shows, it is preceded by a children’s craft workshop — it is not for those under 6 or 7. While the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Brianna Hurley) and Present (Hanniel Sindelar) are ebullient, and Marley (Eric Fletcher) borders on silly, the Ghost of Christmas Future completely captures Dickens’s vision. Faceless, swathed in black and gliding eerily (Stefanie Smith, the show’s choreographer, wears roller skates), it made even the second and third graders near me cringe.
And why not? Without menace, the story loses its full moral impact. At a time of crisis for the economy and health care, “A Christmas Carol” with a little chill couldn’t be more resonant. (Through Dec. 30, Players Theater, 115 Macdougal Street, near Third Street, Greenwich Village, 212-352-3101,; $25 to $40, including workshop. This weekend: Saturday and Sunday, workshop at 10 a.m., show at 11 a.m. The Saturday 3 p.m. show is sold out.) LAUREL GRAEBER

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