Performing Arts

Annapolis Shakespeare Company captures the magic of ‘A Christmas Carol’

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Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s production of A Christmas Carol is a moving, faithful adaptation of Charles Dickens’ beloved holiday tale, now playing virtually for stay-at-home audiences. Adapted by Sally Boyett and Donald Hicken and directed by Boyett, with technical direction by Isabel Simoes de Carvalho, it is a great show for the holiday season.

Dexter Hamlett as Ebenezer Scrooge in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

Dexter Hamlett brings emotional range to Ebenezer Scrooge. His voice is full of rage and bitterness at the start, railing against his nephew Fred (Nathan Kowalczyk) and clerk Bob (Silas Waugh). On his way home, he shoves his way through the holiday crowd, hunched over and scowling. With the spirits he reveals his vulnerability, begging the Ghost of Christmas Past (Calla Fuqua) to stop showing scenes from his past. With the final Ghost (Stephen Kime), he ends up on his knees, asking to be able to change. His transformation at the end is remarkable, laughing, leaping about the stage in joy.

All the other actors play multiple roles. Nathan Kowalczyk plays Fred with lightness, refusing to let his uncle bring his holiday spirits down. The observations he makes about Scrooge at his party are insightful, bringing a shock of recognition to Hamlett as he hears them.

Silas Waugh brings a stoicism to Bob Cratchit, tactfully standing up to Scrooge’s tyranny. In the scene set in the future, he quietly, carefully relates his experience in church. His reaction at the end to Scrooge’s “trick” is well-done, being led offstage in silence. Miles Schulman plays Tiny Tim with innocence and love. Calla Fuqua gives Mrs. Cratchit passion, telling her family exactly what she thinks of Scrooge after Bob proposes a toast to him. She gives a strength to the Ghost of Christmas Past, asking questions of Scrooge that allow him to start changing.

Stephen Kime plays young Scrooge full of bitterness. Nicole Albanese plays his beloved Belle with intelligence. The scene between them, when she gives him up, is incredibly powerful. Even though they sit together, the distance separating them is easy to see. Anya Maier plays his sister Fan with a powerful love. Kime is a frightening Ghost of Christmas Future, completely silent.

John Pruessner as Jacob Marley in 'A Christmas Carol' at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.
John Pruessner as Jacob Marley in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Annapolis Shakespeare Company. Photo by Joshua McKerrow.

John Pruessner gives Jacob Marley emotion, wailing at Scrooge’s initial disbelief. His speech “Mankind was my business!” is incredibly powerful, full of regret over a life spent on the wrong things. He commands the stage as the Ghost of Christmas Present, throwing back Scrooge’s own words at him and speaking of mankind. He gives the dealer Old Joe a sense of fun, playfully teasing his sellers. As Fezziwig, he is full of joyful energy, dancing and bounding across the stage.

Pilot Earle-Smith plays Peter Cratchit with kindness. As the Turkey Boy who gets the giant turkey for Scrooge, he is full of cautious innocence. He and Scrooge comically circle around each other. Nancy Krebs plays the Charwoman with Cockney humor and ingenuity.

Scenic Designer Salydon Boyken has created a set evoking 19th-century London. Underneath the backdrop is a silhouette of the city skyline, while on top are a set of flickering gas lamps. To the left is a spiral staircase, leading to an archway, while a staircase with two landings is on the far right. The backdrop is a screen on which Projections Designer Joshua McKerrow throws various paintings throughout the show, such as of Scrooge’s office and city streets. Crates serve as benches and desks, while a small table and chairs are brought out for the Cratchit’s home.

Director Sally Boyett is also the costume designer, and with Wardrobe and Wig Stylist Hannah Gutin-Creech has the cast in outfits appropriate to the era. Scrooge looks severe in a black suit, later changing to a white nightshirt, stocking cap, and silk dressing gown. Fred is dapper in a blue coat and khaki pants, while Bob is struggling middle-class in a white shirt, black vest, and pants. Jacob Marley looks ghostly in a black suit, a white bandage wrapped around his head, and dragging behind him a heavy weight attached to his chest by chains. The Ghost of Christmas Past has on a white dress and long, flowing sleeves, while the Ghost of Christmas Present looks like a Roman god in a colorful robe and green laurels, carrying a golden scepter, and the Ghost of Christmas Future looks terrifying in a long, black cloak completely covering him..

Boyett serves as sound designer as well, and with Audio Consultant Folger Ridout throws out sounds that help set the tone, such as bells tolling for the time, as well as spooky sounds for the supernatural events.

Lighting Designers William D’Eugenio and Adam Mendelson keep the stage slightly dark for the 19th-century atmosphere, while light enough for the action to be seen. In between some scenes, the lights turn down darker. Voice/Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the authenticity of the actors’ accents. Mario Ramos and CabezaHueca Films handled the camera work and Boyett Productions served as post-production editing, blending stage and screen with close-ups and special effects like spirits and snowflakes. Boyett does a wonderful job as director, creating beautiful movements, from dancing to silent tableaus narrated by the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ensemble’s narration at the beginning and end is cleverly done. This virtual production, while a different experience from watching it live onstage with other people, still captures the magic of Dickens’ story, and the spirit of the season. It is well worth seeing.

Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes, with a 2-minute intermission.

A Christmas Carol is available for streaming through January 19, 2021, on the Annapolis Shakespeare Company’s website. For further information on this and future productions, please visit their website.

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