A Christmas Carol is always a safe bet for theaters this time of year – there’s a warmth and security in December to watching a story we already know and love, especially one with such a redemptive ending. (The same thing, I think, brings people back over and over to It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch that Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas.) Sage’s version is traditional and beautifully done, a delightful peek into the past.
Lucas Phayre-Gonzalez, as Scrooge, is equally skilled both pre- and post-transformation; his grumpiness at the beginning of the show is as much fun to watch as his elation at the end, and his reaction to the trips through the past, present and future courtesy of the ghosts – especially his trip to the past – are finely played. Speaking of the ghosts, they are a delight. Jane Petruncola, as the Ghost of Christmas Past, has the most beautiful costume of the evening; she is a gorgeously haunting vision in white, dotted with glitter and fairy lights, delicately leading Scrooge through his missteps. KD McTeigue’s Ghost of Christmas Present is full of life – she shows empathy but is also no-nonsense in a fresh take on the character I found very enjoyable. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, portrayed by Mitchell Johnson, is perfectly terrifying, just as I was hoping he would be. Xavier Aleman brings genuine emotion to his interactions with Scrooge as his nephew Fred.
Director David Baecker’s use of children in the production is deft; they compliment the performance without being a distraction in the least, and the young actors and actresses he cast do a wonderful job, especially the group of narrators. Our Tiny Tim, Charlotte Baecker, absolutely stole the show; you couldn’t help but grin at the gasps of delight every time she stepped on stage. She had a small role as Ignorance in the production as well, with Audrey Roney playing Want, and if the audience wasn’t already won over, that was the tipping point right there. Extra points for finding possibly the most adorable children in the Capital Region to melt even the hardest of hearts!
William Spencer Musser’s set design is not only beautiful, it’s extremely functional – starting as a streetscape, the houses rotate to provide playing areas within, while still allowing for plenty of stage space for the actors to use. Lighting design doesn’t often get a mention, but Robert Brisson did a wonderful job, from the minute we walked in; the show goes from moody to haunting to celebratory in a short period of time, and the lighting is a big part of that. His shadows are perfectly cast, and his use of black light and strobe light is never overbearing, but a perfect touch.
Ignore the fact that it feels like autumn even though it’s early December and step into the theater – this show will put you in the perfect mood for Christmas carols, decorating the tree, and doing right by your fellow man.
“A Christmas Carol,” Theatre Institute at Sage, Schacht Fine Arts Center, 5 Division Street, Troy; through December 14; $15-$8; Run time: 80 minutes; (518) 244-4505; http://theatre.sage.edu