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A Christmas Carol has story, heart

By: Anna Borowiecki

  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 07, 2013 06:00 am

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Review

A Christmas Carol
Citadel Theatre
Runs until Monday, Dec. 23
Tickets: Start at $35 Call 780-425-1820 or purchase online at www.citadeltheatre.com

The bell tolls, fog rolls in and supernatural creatures travel through time and space to present Ebenezer Scrooge a vision of his stunted life.

Taken in that context, A Christmas Carol now running at the Citadel Theatre until Monday, December 23, gives you the creepy crawlies.

Yet for 14 years, this tale of remorse and redemption has touched a chord with audiences. At its heart, it is about human interaction revealed in a heartfelt, sweeping and poignant show.

Scowling darkly from his ledger, Scrooge isn’t just a skinflint. He’s a soul-sucking, granite-hearted misanthrope whose life mission is to make money on the backs of the vulnerable.

This Dickensian moneylender is cruel, mean-spirited and not above cuffing homeless urchins standing on the street or sending an entire family to debtors prison. Poisoned by his scorn for others, he fits right at home in the world of 2013.

A man so wrapped up in the armour of contempt for others doesn’t exactly turn into a blubbering, contrite puddle just because a few spirits whip him through the universe. But he is a man definitely ripe for a spiritual awakening.

Scrooge has turned into a cultural icon, in large part because of the paradoxes in his character. A larger-than-life figure, Scrooge holds the power to do great good, yet his soul has shrunk to the size of a grain of rice.

It takes a special actor to fill these shoes and James MacDonald is a natural Scrooge. The lean tall lean actor commands the stage in every scene and creates a harsh Scrooge forced to revisit the life choices he made.

Yet in seeing visions of his sister Fanny, his great love Belle, the Cratchit family and Tiny Tim’s future, MacDonald gradually reveals how much his greed has cost him.

MacDonald is a consummate Scrooge, an actor who understands his role and mines Ebenezer’s darkest secrets and skilfully blends them with seasonal optimism.

While MacDonald carries the weightiest role, a great many supporting actors also shone. Former St. Albert actor John Kirkpatrick is explosive as Marley, Scrooge’s mentor and the first spirit to visit.

A man, bowed by the weight of his folly, Marley is shackled to his failures and doomed to travel eternity trapped in chains of his own making.

Kirkpatrick develops a detestable man that also appears pathetic. And when he shouts in tortured tones “save yourself,” we truly feel his anguish.

Julien Arnold as Bob Cratchit is the face of the common man – someone who grovels before an employer for a few chestnuts while brokenly watching his youngest son waste away.

The delightfully tart Belinda Cornish as Mrs. Cratchit is a loving mother and affectionate wife. Maralyn Ryan, founding artistic director of St. Albert Children’s Theatre, delivers a beautifully nuanced performance as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper.

And the knee-high Will Brisbin as Tiny Tim steals the show with his innocence and charm.

The stage is a 19th century Dickensian world complete with stunning foldout sets, gaslights and a rosy Victorian snow globe village look.

But underneath the fine façade, this metaphorical journey reminds us that it is better to embrace our true selves than to bury our nature.


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