‘Tis the season!
Things are in full swing at The Grand Theatre in London, ON and what better way to kick off the holidays than with Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic A Christmas Carol. Although the show opened on November 28, The Grand hosted an official opening night on December 1st in which every seat in the house was occupied by excited and enthralled attendees.
One can expect to be amazed by any show seen at the Grand, but this show, in particular, filled even the most Scroogey of Scrooges with Christmas cheer. Dennis Garnhum, in his directorial debut at The Grand, brought Dickens’ timeless story to life in a grandiose, emotional, and positively impeccable fashion.
“Marley was dead, to begin with…”
Very true to Dickens’ original intention, the play began in a profound, eerie, and (to a certain extent) unnerving way. In complete darkness, the audience was greeted by a vivid projection of the play’s title and falling snow. Once the curtains rose and narration began, we’re introduced to Ebenezer Scrooge (played with otherworldly precision by Benedict Campbell) as he individually mourns the loss of friend and business partner Jacob Marley (Patrick Monaghan).
Within moments, we see a post-mortem Marley rise and escape his grave, therefore putting into motion what would be the eventual haunting of Mr. Scrooge. I certainly could continue to gush, but will leave further details to your own investigation.
“God bless them, every one…”
To whom do I refer? Every single actor in this production. Whether it was Bob Cratchit (Sean Arbuckle), Belle (Alexis Gordon), Tiny Tim (Owen Barteet), or any other individual on that stage, rest assured, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and you’ll love every one. There was a passion amongst this cast that made the audience believe they were part of the story. These actors brought upon wonder, enchantment, and the humanity originally intended when A Christmas Carol was put to page.
We haven’t even talked about the spirits yet! Traditionally known as the “Ghosts” of Christmas Past (Brendan McMurtry-Howlett), Present (Blythe Wilson), and Future (David Michael Moote), in this production they were called “spirits” and it truly enhanced there ethereal presence. And do not even get me started on the costumes. In particular, Christmas Present’s was as beautiful as the performance she gave. If for no other reason (although there are so many!), go just to see this incredibly constructed gown.
“Look upon me! You have never seen the like of me before!”
Now, let’s talk about the set design. Very true to the Spirit of Christmas Present’s above-mentioned line, you honestly have never seen anything like this before. In the blink of an eye, Scrooge’s bedroom becomes an outdoor skating rink. And then from a skating rink to an indoor Christmas party in a brewery. The use of stage levels, as well as props that have been created with utmost creative utility, the stage quite literally comes alive, along with the imaginations of every single viewer.
Previously, I said if for no other reason, go to see the beautifully artistic costumes, but in addition, the clever, creative, and captivating set design illustrates the Christmas Carol magic of which Dickens would approve. I can honestly say, I’ve never witnessed such mastery and I can only hope that as many people as possible get to experience it this holiday season.
So, if you’re not convinced yet…
I’m confident that the incredible cast, unbelievable costumes, and the imaginative set should have you convinced to get to the Grand, fast. But, if you need more encouragement, I’ll leave you with this: this will likely be the best play you see all year and is sure to put you in the Christmas spirit, no matter how many times you’ve uttered “humbug” thus far.
Get out and make a night of it, you’ll be very happy you did!
In fact, this show has been so popular that The Grand decided to extend its run so you can now enjoy the story of Scrooge’s enlightenment all the way through to December 31. Aren’t we lucky!
Feature photo by Claus Andersen