Holiday Treat

Only a Scrooge would not be infected with the spirit of Christmas after seeing the delightful musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that Personal Space Theatrics is presenting for a fourth season. Dickens's hoary tale of crippled Tiny Tim and the old miser who learns the true value of Christmas may appear to cry out for parody or some other form of radical reinvention. But in his beautifully crafted, faithful rendition of the classic, director Stephen Wargo demonstrates the value of close attention to the original story and its emotional nuances.

Wargo keeps the action moving at a sprightly clip through dramatic vignettes spliced with rousing song-and-dance sequences and snatches of narration told by the 23-member company in Greek chorus fashion. The actors spread out through the two aisles and a midpoint landing in the audience section (part of an extended stage), allowing for more inventive choreography, by Ann Robideaux, in the relatively confined space.

Leading the topnotch cast, which includes three able child actors, is Robert Ian Mackenzie, whose bushy eyebrows and craggy features make him the perfect embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge even before the first "Humbug!" bursts from his lips.

Nicholas Alexiy Moran as Bob Cratchit and Michael Poignand as Fred infuse their leaner roles with warm humanity. Also worthy of special mention are Michael Salonia and Kathleen Hinders as the roguish Mr. Fezziwig, under whom Scrooge apprenticed as a young man, and his saucy wife.

The spare set by David Esler consists of tall lantern posts that serve double duty as coat racks, garlands draped on the walls, a large slab of black construction board, and 10 large black cubes. Bringing it all to life is the work of lighting designer Timothy Swiss and sound designer Chris Rummel, who both work in bold strokes.

Costume designer Jessa-Raye Court does yeoman's work outfitting the large cast in period costumes (at a low budget). But it is in her depiction of the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future that she gets to flex her creative muscle. For two of the spirits, she uses gold paper masks, which give them an appropriately otherworldly cast.

A good example of the able teamwork of the production's designers is Marley's Ghost, who is dimly lit by a green spotlight and whose frayed finery gives off puffs of dust as he moves.

Expertly arranged by Dianne Adams McDowell, the musical sequences are embedded so organically in the drama that the transitions in and out of song are virtually invisible. Matt Vinson, the musical director, provides spirited accompaniment on piano.

Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol opens and closes with a medley of Christmas carols and hymns, both traditional and obscure. The full company belts out these tunes in a manner as resonant and uplifting as any church choir's.

You'll leave the theater in high spirits, humming under your breath and thinking better of the world than it probably deserves for the rest of your day or night.

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