Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron

A Christmas Carol
Great Lakes Theater
Review by David Ritchey

Also see Mark's review of Avenue Q


Lynn Robert Berg
Photo by Roger Masteroni
The year 2018 celebrates the 30th anniversary of Great Lakes Theater's presentation of A Christmas Carol. I've written reviews of this show for about twenty seasons. Gerald Freedman adapted the script from Charles Dickens' novel. He directed a number of productions of this script before he left Cleveland, and now the show is staged by various members of the company. This year, Victoria Bussert stages the production this season. Bussert has earned a reputation as the director of musical productions, and she has done a superior job staging this opening of the Christmas season.

The cast numbers about 25 actors who play all of the characters, and for opening night, the company invited board members and performers from the 30-year history to sit in the audience and celebrate A Christmas Carol.

The performance opens with Mother (Laura Welsh Berg) reading Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" to her children and Father (Nick Steen). Samuels (Lynn Robert Berg, who later becomes Ebenezer Scrooge) prepares the fire in the fireplace and closes the house for the evening. As Mother reads the story, the bedroom in Scrooge's flat appears, and Marley's ghost (David Anthony Smith) makes his entrance in order to prepare Scrooge for the rest of his life and for death. Marley is weighted down with chains he forged in his life. He admits he did little for others and promises Scrooge that three spirits will visit him on the next three nights; each will teach Scrooge a lesson. Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past (Patrick John Kierman), Christmas Present ( Alex Syiek), and Christmas Future (Patrick John Kierman).

With its multitude of ghosts, a scene in a cemetery, and people dying, it seems A Christmas Carol would not be appropriate for little kids, but parents rush to take their children to productions during the holiday season. The set is dark, filled with smoke, and doesn't offer a happy time. However, as things move toward the curtain call, the cast sings "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," the set becomes bright with costumes and jolly action, and the spirit of Christmas sweeps through the theater. At the performance I attended, the happy spirit swept through the theater and audience members sang "We Wish You a Merry Christmas," calling to each other. The show is everything one could want in a Christmas party.

The large cast is excellent, the children as professional as their adult castmates. Great Lakes Theater provides excellent theater training for the young performers.

Lynn Robert Berg is on the stage most of the performance. He has enough stage time early in the show to play the mean, selfish Scrooge we've grown to expect. As Scrooge tours his life with the three spirits, he watches himself make errors in his life, errors which have left him alone and unhappy. He was engaged as a young man, but the woman returned the ring and ended the engagement because he had more interest in making money than in her. He didn't maintain a friendly relationship with his nephew and the nephew's family either.

As the story moves to its conclusion, Scrooge finally makes a complete change. He helps Bob Cratchit's family with their Christmas dinner, and arranges for Cratchit to have a raise and more coal to keep their office warm. According to Dickens, after the visits from the spirits, no man celebrated Christmas better than Scrooge.

Tiny Tim has the last line in the play: "God bless us everyone."

Great Lakes Theater's A Christmas Carol, through December 23, 2018, at the Ohio Theatre, 1592 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland OH. Call for seats now, at 216-640-8800, or visit playhousesquare.org.


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