Yup. Charles Dickens is back in town. Played with great good humor by the veteran Tom Gleadow, this year’s “A Christmas Carol” has Mr. Dickens on stage often and to considerable effect.
The rotund Gleadow is one of those luminous actors whom you find yourself watching anytime he’s on stage. And he’s there a lot, giving this year’s version more of the dialogue from the novel then perhaps ever. He also chides, and directs, poor old Ebenezer Scrooge a bit, too, which lends a nice comedic touch.
But there’s much more to this year’s production. On a set very much like last year’s fine version by Eugene Lee, director Tyler Dobrowsky has brought back more song and dance. He seems to give greater precedence to the charming group of kids ranging, of course, from Tiny Tim to the little guy who delivers one humongous turkey at the play’s end. There’s some wonderful singing and overall, a feeling of delight, a full finding of the redemption of one man whose turnaround, shows all of us how to be here on this earth.
That man, of course, is Scrooge. This year he’s played by Fred Sullivan Jr. a Trinity Rep mainstay who, in his 30 seasons has done no less than 110 roles at the theater. As Ebenezer, he comes up with a limp, a sharp mind, focused eyes and all the mean-spirited drive of one of the most malicious dudes ever to people a novel or the stage.
But Sullivan manages a little more. His Scrooge may be malevolent but there’s usually a bit of twinkle there, too. The veteran actor/director slowly but consistently lets you see old Scrooge begin to rise, to retrieve the decency and care that he lost as a boy turning to hard-pressed manhood.
Galumphing around the stage, watching with razor eyes almost everything going on, Sullivan’s Scrooge is a testimony to Dickens’ belief in redemption, in comebacks.
The large cast acquits itself with professional vigor. Angela Brazil and Stephen Throne are troupers in the best sense. Charlie Thurston makes the sometimes simplistic Bob Cratchit into a man with presence and drive. He’s hilarious trying to get one more tiny piece of coal into Scrooge’s minimal fire. Joe Wilson Jr. brings his usual emotional belief to a couple of roles.
As I said, this “A Christmas Carol” is buoyed by lots of song and dance. But most of all it is filled with caring and hope. After 37 years, Trinity has once again made this adaptation by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming into a living monument to faith, to the better side of all things.
Want to Go?
“A Christmas Carol” continues at Trinity Rep through December 28.