The Column Online



By Charles Dickens
Adapted by Kevin Moriarty

Dallas Theater Center

Director – Tiffany Nichole Greene
Choreographer- Jeremy Allen Dumont
Music Director- Vonda K. Bowling
Set Designer- Beowulf Boritt
Costume Designer- Jen Caprio
Sound Designer- Broken Chord
Lighting Designer- Jeff Croiter
Wig Designer- Valerie Gladstone
Scenic and Props Coordinator- John Slauson
Assistant Director- Noah Heller
Associate Costume Designer- Jen Ables
Associate Sound Designer- Brian McDonald
Associate Lighting Designer- Aaron Johansen
Assistant Lighting Designer- Jordan Smith
Stage Manager- Cheyney Coles
Assistant Stage Manager- Emily Burke
Production Assistant- Samantha Honeycutt
Stage Management Apprentice- Josh Secor
Child Supervisor- Alexandria Sepulveda
Assistant Child Supervisor- Derek Longoria
Assistant Production Manager- Patricia Lopez
Dance Captain- Tiana Kaye Blair

Bob Cratchit- Jahi Kearse
Ebenezer Scrooge- Alex Organ
Lucy, Christmas Yet to Come #3- Amber Rossi
Business Woman, Sister- Ana Hagedorn
Business Man- Galen Sho Sato
Mrs. Dilber, Belle- Tiffany Solano DeSena
Jacob Marley, Topper, Old Joe- Drew Wall
Christmas Past, Christmas Yet to Come #2- Cara Serber
Schoolmaster, Laundress- Kathryn Taylor Rose
Mr. Fezziwig- Brian Mathis
Young Scrooge- Ace Anderson
Young Marley, Christmas Present #1- Parker Gray
Mrs. Fezziwig, Christmas Yet to Come #1- Sarah Gay
Christmas Present #2- Deanna Ott
Fred, Undertaker’s Man- Curtis Faulkner
Mrs. Cratchit- Tiana Kaye Blair
Tiny Tim- Cooper Carter
Boy Scrooge, Christmas Fairy, Poverty- Josiah Gamino, Holden Helm
Fan, Christmas Fairy, Hunger, Turkey Girl- Olivia Darnall, McKenzy Dodson
Belinda Cratchit- Nina Ruby Gameros, Libby Refakis
Martha Cratchit- Aiyana McGarry Fairley, Kathryn Donovan McElhenie
Peter Cratchit- Clayton Creech, Aiden Valentine

Reviewed Performance: 11/28/2018

Reviewed by Kathleen Morgan, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

There is a reason that “A Christmas Carol” has remained popular since Dickens penned it in the Victorian era. The story is timeless: an old, curmudgeonly man learns to abandon his selfish ways and embrace generosity through lessons from his past, the realities of his present, and warnings of his future. In order to keep this old story fresh, each new film and stage adaptation brings something unique to the table. Dallas Theater Center’s rendition of this classic was no exception. Despite having seen and heard this story at least a dozen times, this production has been the most engaging piece of theater I’ve witnessed all year!

This production is a masterpiece. Every element of the show - the acting, the incredibly creative set, the music, lights, costumes, and new twists on an old theme - worked together to form a wholly engaging and immersive experience. Director Tiffany Nichole Greene mastered flow and creativity in A Christmas Carol. Matching the industrial age during which this show takes place, the cast and set performed like a well-oiled machine. Although there was a near endless whir of movement onstage, every step was perfectly timed and placed, giving way to a smooth and crisp flow that lasted all evening. It comes as no surprise that Greene has been tapped to direct the national tour of Hamilton, the very same that will run in Dallas next year!

Working in perfect harmony with the actors was the set itself. At the orchestra level, several raised set pieces extended into the audience, immersing viewers in the action. Ladders extended from upper balconies to the lower, and were utilized throughout the show by the actors. Most impressive was a platform at center stage that rose and descended beneath the stage itself. At times it was used as a means to lift actors from the lower to the upper level, but usually it was used to transport characters into a new scene. Finally, the set and lighting design conveyed a versatile range of atmospheres, including the cold, industrial factory that Scrooge oversees, as well as the lively and merry party that Fezziwig throws when Scrooge is a young man.

Rounding out the visual grandeur of this show were the magnificent costumes. The factory-workers were clothed in drab shades of gray, fitting their sorry state in life. Scrooge himself wore a simple, black suit initially, although he was dressed in his nightgown and cap through most of the production- something that quickly makes his gruff character less intimidating to the audience. The guests in the party scenes with Fezziwig and Scrooge's niece were bedecked in brightly colored suits and dresses with broad hoop skirts, making the atmosphere all the more festive. The women had their hair done up in tight ringlets that framed their faces and bounced with each step- fitting for the time period. Finally, the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come had outfits that matched their wildly distinct personalities to a T.

Alex Organ’s performance as Scrooge was nothing short of gripping. Although he portrayed a younger Scrooge than what audiences are used to, the quality of this character did not suffer in the slightest- far from it. Barking out orders as he makes notes in his ledger, it is clear from the beginning of the show that Scrooge is ruthless and unfeeling towards his employees. Scrooge’s selfish and penny-pinching ways are hammered home as he rudely turns away the Businessman and Businesswoman (Galen Sho Sato, Ana Hagedorn) who eagerly try to solicit charitable donations from him. Adding insult to injury, he even turns away his own niece (Amber Rossi) who invites him to her Christmas party whilst dispensing alms to his wretched employees. As the show progresses and Scrooge is visited first by his old partner, Jacob Marley, and the three spirits of Christmas, his transformation is gradual but powerful. Organ masters every emotion that Scrooge feels- complete terror when being confronted with Marley’s ghost, nostalgia and longing for his youth, and pity for Tiny Tim – though nearly always shrouded with his cynicism and stubbornness. One of the more heart-wrenching moments of the show occurred as Belle broke off her engagement to young Ebenezer, and the younger and older versions shouted her name simultaneously- though a moment too late. Though every aspect of this production was engaging and high quality, it was hard to take my eyes off Organ for more than a few seconds.

Resembling hell spawn more than a refined businessman, Drew Wall portrayed a Jacob Marley that was the stuff of nightmares (literally- my guest admitted to having nightmares about him that evening). The combination of his thunderous appeal to Scrooge and his tortured wailing was hair-raising. The way Wall writhed and tore at the chain "he forged in life" left no doubt as to the crippling state of his misery; he perfectly captured the essence of a tortured soul.

The three spirits of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come, couldn’t have been more distinct from one another. Cara Serber played a positively radiant ghost of Christmas past, this time portrayed as Scrooges’ late mother. Her simple white gown and golden curls piled gracefully on her head gave her a truly angelic aura. She led Ebenezer through scenes of his boyhood and youth with confidence and grace. As for the ghost (or should I say ghosts?) of Christmas Present (Parker Gray, Deanna Ott), the narrator said it best when she announced that nothing could have prepared Scrooge for what he was about to see next. Instead of one “ghost,” two- brother and sister dressed as Christmas elves- filled the stage with a perpetual stream of shrieking laughter, mischief, and confetti. Despite being so wild, the Gray and Ott had amazing chemistry and very well-coordinated movements, exhibiting impressive ballet steps at times. As they lead Scrooge through domestic scenes with his niece and Bob Cratchit’s family, the pair echo Scrooge’s own words, taunting him with, “Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?” before leaving him. This abrupt departure from their former lighthearted ways was jarring- but necessary in order to awaken Scrooge to the gravity of his situation. Finally, the third and most ominous of the spirits, was the cloaked ghost of Christmas Yet to Come (Amber Rossi, Cara Serber, Sarah Gay). Almost magically, this phantom appeared, rapid-fire, in different areas of the stage right after it had disappeared from another spot just a moment before. Its presence was made all the more eerie by its muteness. This spirit led Scrooge through the next dismal passage of what his life (or rather, afterlife) would entail: Being despised by the people in his community, and being so ill-respected that even his own laundress, housekeeper, and the undertaker (Kathryn Taylor Rose, Tiffany Solano DeSena, Curtis Faulkner) would cast lots for his goods.

Mr. Fezziwig (Brian Mathis) brought an effusive joy and energy to the stage during his party scene. Leading the company in “The Boar’s Head,” with a rich, deep voice, he delighted party guests and audience members alike. His brightly covered outfit, voluminous hair, and most especially his grand smile dramatically set him apart from the other characters. His infectious joy reverberated throughout all in his presence, especially Mrs. Fezziwig (Sarah Gay) and young Ebenezer (Ace Anderson) and young Jacob (Parker Gray). Mathis’ range of emotion as an actor hits home in a later scene where Scrooge and Marley all but forced him to sell his business for next to no profit. He made this betrayal come alive- the sense of loss was palpable throughout the room as Mathis stumbled away, completely drained. I am impressed and inspired at how Mathis took us from merry delight to heart-stopping devastation in the span of a few minutes!

It was back at Fezziwig’s party that we were introduced to young Ebenezer’s beloved, Belle, played by the coquettish Tiffany Solano DeSena. Initially, the two interacted as nervous as any crushing couple, neither party wanting to make the first move- though they quickly warmed to each other. DeSena positively glowed with her earnest love for Ebenezer, and was equally earnest in her conviction to marry for the right reasons. An air of sheer goodness followed each time DeSena was onstage.

Jani Kearse portrayed Bob Cratchit, one of the more enigmatic characters in the show. Despite being mistreated, overworked and underpaid by Scrooge, his character is neither cowed nor meek, as in traditional portrayals of Cratchit. Instead, he is respectful towards Scrooge in the factory, yet comes alive at home with Mrs. Cratchit and his joyful and kind children (Nina Ruby Gameros, Libby Refakis, Aiyana McGarry Fairley, Kathryn Donovan McElhenie, Clayton Creech, Aiden Valentine). During scenes with his family, Kearse is laid-back and jovial, and so gentle with his handicapped son, the famous Tiny Tim (Josiah Gamino). Later on, Kearse’s performance as he marches in Tiny Tim’s funeral procession is sharply contrasted from that in earlier scenes. He plays a somber tune on the guitar, and sings a hopeful song that is drowned with despair. Kearse makes the loss of Tiny Tim felt with intensity.

Bob Cratchit wouldn’t be as strong a character without Mrs. Cratchit (Tiana Kaye Blair) at his side. With a strength that only mothers know, Blair conveyed both her heavy heart as well as her resiliency in the face of her family’s struggles and Tiny Tim’s illness. Tiny Tim himself was played by a joyful Cooper Carter. You couldn’t help but smile any time he hobbled out onstage, always ready to offer a kind word. Finally, boy Scrooge’s (Josiah Gamino, Holden Helm) performance was the picture of boyish delight and innocence. He handled his schoolmaster’s (Kathryn Taylor Rose) anger and impatience with a meek, though not weak, response. When his sister, Fan (Olivia Darnall, McKenzy Dodson) came to bring him home for good, his face shone with joy.

Though I’ve always appreciated the story of A Christmas Carol, it had become stale for me. Dallas Theater Center brought it back to life and so much more! Its retelling was as refreshing as it was powerful, and brought tears to my eyes more than once. They added fresh takes without sacrificing anything that makes the original so beautiful and timeless. The addition of traditional carols and short dance sequences added a more robust Christmas spirit to the show, and served to balance out the more somber scenes as well. What makes this show even more special is Dallas Theater Center’s partnership with the North Texas Food Bank, having collected over $700,000- or 2,110,000 meals- since 2008, from donations after A Christmas Carol alone. The call to action to donate is a perfect way to tie in the message of this story. If you just see one show this holiday season, make sure it’s A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol
November 21st –December 30th, most days of the week
Weeknights: 7:30pm, Weekend nights: 8pm, 2:00pm matinee Saturday and Sunday (Verify on website)
Wyly Theater- 2400 Flora St, Dallas TX

To purchase tickets, visit the box office, or purchase online at the ATT Performing Arts Center website
Ticket prices range from $27 to $149