Friday, November 25, 2022

"A Christmas Carol" at the Guthrie Theater

It's the Guthrie Theater's 60th season, and for about 80% of those years they've been producing Charles Dickens' classic story of redemption, A Christmas Carol. This year marks their 48th production, and my 16th time seeing it. It's obviously a beloved holiday* tradition in the #TCTheater community, one that I also love and have rarely missed in my 19 seasons as a subscriber. But why? Why do they keep doing it? Why do people keep seeing it? Why do I go back year after year? Read on for ten reasons** to see the Guthrie's A Christmas Carol this year before it closes on December 31.

Why should you see A Christmas Carol this year? Here are ten reasons:

  1. This new adaptation by Lavina Jadhwani that premiered last year, that stays true to the original story, telling it succinctly and effectively, emphasizing Scrooge's willing participation in his transformation.
  2. The Guthrie's Artistic Director Joseph Haj's first time directing this classic onstage last year and returning for this production, bringing an urgency to the story and smoothly handling all of the time, location, and tone shifts.
  3. An all new set design (which also debuted last year) by Matt Saunders that is stunning, effective, and haunting, and features many moving parts and pieces including rotating concentric circles, a sliding backdrop of London buildings, a massive two-story rotating piece that is Scrooge's abode, and too many charming details to mention (the tiny houses!).
  4. Scrooge (Matthew Saldivar) and the Ghost of Christmas Present
    (Regina Marie Williams, photo by Dan Norman)
    Gorgeous and lush Victorian costumes (designed by Toni-Leslie James) that range from rich and deeply colored gowns and suits with every imaginable detail, to the modest garb of the lower classes, to the colorful and fantastical costumes of the ghosts.
  5. Broadway actor Matthew Saldivar's younger and more vital Scrooge, who visibly and believably transforms from a man suffering deep pain to a skipping and giggling delight.
  6. Scrooge watches the Cratchits (photo by Dan Norman)
    This dreamy and mostly local cast (certainly the highest percentage of locals we'll see at the Guthrie this season), including Kurt Kwan descending from the ceiling as the wise Ghost of Christmas past; Regina Marie Williams as the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present; Andy Frye embodying the scariest Ghost of Christmas Future I've seen; John Catron as the good clerk Cratchit; Charity Jones (who has previously played Scrooge) in another pants role as the ghost of Marley; Eric Sharp as Scrooge's charming nephew; Paul de Cordova as good old Fezziwig; Summer Hagen, Emily Gunyou Halaas, and China Brickey as the Fezziwig daughters; U of M/Guthrie BFA grad Sebastian Grim as young Scrooge; and NBD ensemble members Nathaniel Fuller (a prior Scrooge) and Tyler Michaels King.
  7. Beautiful and festive Victorian Christmas carols (see #6 for the gorgeous voices included, with music direction by Mark Hartman), and lovely dancing and movement that leaves you wanting more (choreography by Regina Peluso).
  8. An always welcome visit to the big beautiful blue building on the river, with its incredible views, unique architecture, and cozy spaces open daily to the public (the new restaurant Ovation on Level 5 and the Target Lounge on Level 4 are now open, along with many neighborhood restaurants).
  9. The comfort of a tradition that yearly brings us back to a familiar place and feeling.
  10. Most importantly, because we need Dickens' message of kindness, generosity, and shared humanity now more than ever. God bless us every one, indeed.
As I've written about A Christmas Carol in the past, "I never tire of seeing it, because Charles Dickens' story of redemption, community, family, and human kindness never gets old. It's a beautiful and necessary thing to be reminded that 'what brings us together is greater than what drives us apart.' That it's never too late to change, to grow, to become a kinder and more generous person." 

"God bless us, every one!" (photo by Dan Norman)

**This review is modified from my review of last year's production, the debut of this new adaptation/design/cast. I was planning to write a full new review this year, but I missed the entire first act due to the worst traffic jam I've ever experienced. But it was worth it just to see the second act, and I may go back to see the whole show again this year.