Home Made Theater’s holiday offering this year is A Christmas Carol; last year, they did a very entertaining Charlie Brown Christmas and I was looking forward to this season’s production. Having just seen Sage’s version and with that fresh in my mind, I was also interested in the differences the two theaters would bring to their shows – how different, exactly, can you make such an iconic story?
HMT’s version is also a very traditional rendition, with a period set and costumes. This adaption (by Terry Rabine) has more Christmas carols in it, so there is more music throughout (and a very nice chorus with lovely harmonies singing the carols, comprised of actors who also play roles in the show.) Instead of having a group of children narrating, there is one narrator throughout (Marilyn Detmer) who watches the action as almost a silent witness, adding Dickens’ words where narration is needed.
The production had a rocky opening night; I can only hope that the rest of the run goes more smoothly. There were a number of actors who didn’t seem to know their lines, with long pauses while they gathered their thoughts (and one actor who had to feed a line to another in order to get things back on track); cues weren’t picked up in a timely fashion, so the dialogue and action were very choppy; Scrooge’s name is spelled incorrectly on his tombstone, and during the scene with Marley’s ghost, the sound of his chains was coming from speakers on the opposite side of the stage than the action and was so loud I couldn’t hear the dialogue between Marley and Scrooge.
The Ghost of Christmas Past (Grace Davis) and the Ghost of Christmas Present (Heather Ritchie) are the high points of the production – both are lively, articulate and make strong character choices. The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come isn’t the traditional tall, skeletal figure – but the choice they make for this spirit is new and innovative, and its introduction is surprising and made the audience gasp – not a small thing in a show that everyone in the audience has likely seen a number of times. Scrooge (Warren Schultz) isn’t as strong as I’d have liked him to be in his role – not as forbidding in the early stages, so that when the message of the ghosts finally gets through to him, his transformation isn’t as much of a breakthrough. There are a number of children in the cast, and that’s always a worry – but they are delightful. They stayed in character throughout and elicited a number of oohs and aahs from the audience.
As many issues as the production has, the audience was engaged throughout, laughing and clapping spontaneously – and perhaps, this time of year, with this particular story, it’s not the quality of the show, per se, but the heart put into it and the message of Dickens’ tale – and if that’s the case, this show does its job to perfection.
“A Christmas Carol”, Home Made Theater, 19 Roosevelt Drive, Saratoga Springs; through December 16; $18-$12; Run time: 85 minutes including a 15-minute intermission; (518) 587-5527; http://www.homemadetheater.org