Ghostly messengers have come to Cleveland again, as Great Lakes Theater welcomes the 2021 holiday season with its classic, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Running now through December 23, 2021 in the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey to redemption is a heart-tugging winter welcomer.
Framed within the home of the Cleveland Family as they celebrate Christmas, we meet the smallest child first, as little Master William (Avery Pyo) rushes in to hide from Samuels (Lynn Robert Berg), who is trying to wrangle the lad for bed. Father, Mother and Family hurry in and they settle down for a story – the story by Charles Dickens. As the they sing, drink cocoa, and reminisce, they joyfully step into A CHRISTMAS CAROL (may it haunt their house pleasantly)!
We meet Ebenezer Scrooge (Berg) on Christmas Eve, as he grumbles at his clerk, Bob Cratchit (Nick Steen), about Bob having the whole day of Christmas off. “It’s not convenient, and it’s not fair,” objects Scrooge. Never was there a more miserly, crotchety person alive. The kindly Bob is hoping to spend the holiday with his family, and the curmudgeonly Scrooge eventually acquiesces – begrudgingly. He then dismisses his kind-hearted nephew Fred (Joe Wegner) when he drops by to wish him a merry Christmas and to invite him to dinner. Scrooge is truly a miserable person.
Upon returning home, Scrooge is startled to see the face of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley (David Anthony Smith), in the door knocker… or does he? He shrugs it off and goes about his evening, not realizing that this is only the beginning of a very long night.
After checking out every shadow and creepy corner, Scrooge skittishly settles into bed. But sleep is not to be – with a loud ringing of bells, there is a sudden appearance of the long-dead Jacob Marley. The ghost of his old business partner is chain-laden and very displeased as he begins to show Scrooge what’s to come. Hoping to help Scrooge change his penny-pinching ways, Marley tells Scrooge that three ghosts will visit him, and then he disappears into a terrifying fog. Scrooge still thinks he may have been dreaming and falls into a deep sleep.
He awakens confused and he contemplates the clock. As 1:00am chimes, the Ghost of Christmas Past (Domonique Champion) appears and takes Scrooge on a journey through his own life. Scrooge remembers happier times when life seemed full of enjoyment and promise. He’s reminded of people and places that brought him both disappointment and delight. These memories move him emotionally, and he dismisses this ghost in an exasperated haste. Again, he falls into a deep sleep.
Scrooge slumbers through the whole next day and awakens again at night. 1:00am approaches – but nothing happens. Surely, he’s been dreaming? But the Ghost of Christmas Present (Leilani Barrett) appears in a grand entrance to show him that this is all very much happening. Scrooge is shown the present time: an era filled with many people who are underprivileged and suffering, yet still have so much hope. He sees that everyone they visit is comforted by the Ghost of Christmas Present. He’s brought to Bob Cratchit’s home and Scrooge sees Bob’s large family – poor, yet still happy. He’s also moved by Bob’s youngest son, Tiny Tim, who is sickly and crippled. Scrooge implores the Ghost of Christmas Present, “Tell me, Spirit… will he live?” He’s accepted that he has much to learn, and is open to discovering how he can avoid a meaningless death full of chains and sorrow (like his partner Marley). And as quickly as this Ghost has arrived, it seems he’s gone, leaving Scrooge to prepare for the final visit.
On the final night, Scrooge is visited by a third spirit, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come (Domonique Champion). The tall, terrifying Ghost says nothing, but moves about in ominous black robes, petrifyingly pointing to his possible doom. Scrooge sees people reacting callously and even cheerily to the news of a rich man’s death. He sees servants pawning the man’s items, and debtors (behind on their loan payments) celebrating the brief reprieve they will have now that their lender has died. He also sees the Cratchit home, where a lone crutch is all that’s left of the now-dead Tiny Tim. His grief for the child’s passing is overwhelming and is only made worse by the revelation of the name on the tombstone of the rich man – Ebenezer Scrooge.
Scrooge is thrust into an overwhelming sadness, full of regret. He falls to his knees and cries, “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
Suddenly, Scrooge finds himself back in his own room, and realizes that it’s Christmas Day! He dances about like a young boy and is filled with joy. He immediately rights several of his wrongs and is filled with the Spirit of the Season.
The large cast, the gorgeous costumes, and the phenomenal set are all brought together by beautiful lights and sound. The entire experience is one of grandeur and envelopment in something that is greater than oneself. The actors express truth and emotion about real struggle in difficult times, never losing their positivity. These outlooks are expressed in every poof of fog, each layer of fabric, and all of the details painted on the huge set.
Originally adapted and directed by Gerald Freedman, A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a story that shows the worst of humanity, and how the light of shock realization can spark an empathetic fire in even the coldest and deadest of hearts. The overarching message of this piece is one of optimism – that empathy can open eyes and hearts, and (in Scrooge’s case) also wallets. Compassion and understanding create a flood of feelings, showing that family and friends are the greatest treasures of all, and for that we can all say, “God bless us, every one!”
A CHRISTMAS CAROL runs now through December 23, 2021 at the Mimi Ohio Theatre at Playhouse Square. Run Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes (including intermission).
Production Fun Facts:
The Great Lakes Theater production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL features –
– 355 Cues
– 200 Props
– 60 Roles / 25 Actors
– 11 Days of Rehearsal
– 9 Feet for the height of the Ghost of Christmas Present
– 7 Fog Machines
– 5 Feet of Chain
– 4 Ghosts
$35 – $80 / Patrons 25 & Under $30Web ordering and info:
Health and Safety:
“Great Lakes Theater considers the health and safety of our patrons, visitors, artists, and staff our highest priority. As we return to in-person productions this season, we continue to work with our partners at Playhouse Square, the unions that represent our artists, and state/local government health officials to maintain a high level of safety for all performances.
As a resident company, Great Lakes Theater will follow the health protocols and policies put in place by Playhouse Square to join our partner and other performing arts venues across the country to provide multiple layers of safety for our audiences, artists, and staff.”
To see all of these policies and protocols, visit https://www.greatlakestheater.org/your-visit/visitor-health-amp-safety-information.