Volume II, Issue IV Winter 2003

New year, new Scrooge – same great production

A Christmas Carol
Written by Charles Dickens
Adapted by D.W. Jacobs
Original music by Steve Gunerson
Directed by Todd Salovey

Lyceum Theatre
Horton Plaza
San Diego, Calif.
Through December 28

San Diego REP's annual production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is one of San Diego's great theater traditions. For more than a quarter-century, the REP has been bringing Southern Californians a top-notch production of this classic. Everyone from Patrick Stewart to a pre-Whoopi Whoopi Goldberg (then still working as Caryn Johnson) has graced the REP's boards during "A Christmas Carol" through the years.

A Christmas CarolWhile REP co-founder D.W. Jacobs reworks the REP's presentation of Dickens' story every couple of years – previous renditions have included a circus and a homeless encampment – this year's production is roughly the same as last year's.

It is, anyway, the same script and set as last year. What's new are many of the cast members – including, most notably, the actor playing Scrooge.

Peter Van Norden, a longtime Broadway veteran, assumes the role this year – and turns in a remarkable performance, one that gives Scrooge a healthy dose of humanity and finds still new wrinkles to this character that may be one of the most portrayed of the last half-century.

San Diego veteran Jonathan McMurtry reprises his role as Dickens narrating the show – and again shows why putting Dickens on stage to tell his tale is one of Jacobs' best flourishes.

The Victorian set remains a charmer, giving this production the feel of a traditional telling – something you don't get too often at the REP.

And yet the cast puts their heart and soul into this production, and so if we're not used to seeing the traditional at the REP, this is as charmingly old-fashioned as anything you'll see at the local community theaters, but with the polish and sheen you expect of a company that often sends productions on to Broadway.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif.

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