Los Angeles / Regional Theater Preview: A CHRISTMAS CAROL (Rubicon in Ventura)

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by Frank Arthur on December 1, 2015

in Theater-Los Angeles,Theater-Regional


While Michigan-born illustrator Haddon Sundblom developed the popular image of Santa Claus for Coca Cola advertising in the 1930s, it was the Victorian era which introduced most of the Christmas customs still practiced worldwide, including the illuminated / decorated tree and holiday greeting cards. In 1843, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was published, and the entertainment industry winter traditions would never be the same.

The novella takes us through the life of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his disdain for the holidays, or more appropriately for human kindness in general. It’s not until he’s visited by three ghosts—past, present and future—that he gains perspective on the importance of giving, gratitude, and family. Critics have never considered the book one of Dickens’ best works, but the public’s appetite for the terrific story has never waned, especially given that its universal theme of someone moving out of despair and into light connects with so many.

A Christmas Carol - RUBICON - PRENo doubt there have been many many versions of the tale that tells of Tiny Tim’s troubled tibia, from the sacred (the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim) to the profane (the 2013 straight-to-DVD release The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol). But in recent years, myriad overblown productions have focused more on the fabulousness of Fezziwig’s festive feasts than the story’s redemptive qualities.

Fortunately, for its premier staging of A Christmas Carol, Rubicon Theatre and director Brian McDonald present a brand new version by Producing Artistic Director Karyl Lynn Burns that provides a revealing portrait of the lost and lonely child who became the miserly man. McDonald describes this production as, “a dynamic actor-driven, ensemble-devised production, full of surprises. The story is told in an imaginative, narrative style, with actors directly addressing the audience at various moments. The artists portray multiple characters, dogs, food—even dressing gowns and doors. It’s a little in the style of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s landmark production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, only shorter.”

This will also be the company’s largest ensemble ever for a play—24 in all. Heading the cast is Broadway veteran Peter Van Norden as Scrooge, who is visited by the ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, played by the great Joe Spano. Presented as a play with music, Rubicon’s production, which opens Saturday and plays through December 20, 2015, also incorporates traditional carols sung a cappella by cast members including Teri Bibb (Christine in Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for seven years), Jennifer Leigh Warren (Big River); Parker Harris, and Trevor Wheetman. 13-year-old Elijah Graham plays the Boy Scrooge and sings “Veni, Veni, Emanuel” in both the Prologue and the Epilogue.

The awesome cast is joined by a design team that’s tough to beat. Joining Jeremy Pivnick (lights), Cricket S. Myers (sound), and Abra Flores (costumes) is the newly appointed Resident Scenic Designer for the 2015-2016 Season: Thomas S. Giamario, who has created a magical, multi-level open space for the setting of A Christmas Carol. Acting as an extension of the character of Scrooge, the set is both a literal and figurative representation of Scrooge’s mind as he travels with the Ghosts through space and time in order to find himself.

Vibrancy, clarity, playful, engaging, and impactful is the shortlist of adjectives to describe this engaging production. Adapter Ms. Burns states, “Whatever hurts we have experienced, whatever wrong turns we have made, it is never too late to change. We can honor the past, present and future. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we can become a child again and be reborn.”

photo courtesy of the Rubicon

A Christmas Carol
Rubicon Theatre Company
1006 E. Main Street in Ventura
Wed at 2 & 7; Thurs at 8; Fri at 8; Sat at 2 & 8; Sun at 2
ends on December 20, 2016
for tickets, call 805.667.2900 or visit Rubicon

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