Volume III, Issue III Autumn 2004

Dickens' glorious gift to the season

By Jim Trageser


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

San Diego Repertory Theatre
Lyceum Theatre
Horton Plaza, downtown San Diego
Through December 26

It is, excepting only the Christian New Testament, the grandest tale of redemtion ever told. Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" has become a perennial holiday favorite (and an annual treat for San Diego's theater fans) because it is such a larger-than-life story, and one that can resonate in every heart.

For if few of us have been as parsimonious, as calculatingly cold, as one Ebeneezer Scrooge — well, who among us is without a sin or two?

And so San Diego Repertory Theatre's annual production of "A Christmas Carol" is a San Diego tradition, one now in its 29th year. This particular production, a fairly straight-ahead telling set in Dicken's own Victorian London, is in its third (and likely last) year, as the Rep tends to mix up its "Christmas Carol" ever few years or so.

A Christmas Carol Those who like their Christmas traditions to be, well, traditional may want to take in this year's production, as past productions have included a circus and a homeless encampment and there's no telling what the future may hold with The REP.

There is more of a streak of humor running through this year's version than the past couple of years, and a bit more music woven into the narrative.

The set by Giulio Cesare Perrone, combined with David Lee Cuthbert's lighting, creates a stage that has all the Christmas magic of a miniature village under the family tree.

Jonathan McMurtry returns in the role of Dickens himself as narrator, and is his normal magnificent self. Composer Steve Gunderson doubles as Bob Cratchit this year, providing a memorable performance as the overworked clerk. Bibi Valderrama will break your heart as Tiny Tim.

But this story is about Scrooge, and Peter Van Norden's second year of Scrooge is even better than his first. In Van Norden's hands, there is nothing miraculous about Scrooge's transformation from lonely, bitter old man to someone who can find joy in everyday life – it is a natural and very human result of seeing what the ghosts have shown him. It is a Scrooge we can all relate to – and learn from.

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