Richard doyle

While most Southern California theatergoers are probably more aware of the “big deal,” the direct-to-Broadway production of the Charles Dickens classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL now playing in Los Angeles with big star names on her roster, many shouldn’t necessarily bypass the other, less star-studded montage now entertaining Orange County audiences — it’s more subtle in its grandeur, but still as enchanting and timeless at its core.

Despite the dueling productions being just an hour apart, the Tony Award-winning South Coast repertoire of Costa Mesa is moving forward with the return of its own annual production — its 41st – – set in the arguably more intimate Segerstrom stage until December 26, 2021.

SCR’s 2021 iteration of its annual production once again uses script adapted by Jerry Patch, exquisitely vintage stage designs by Thomas Buderwitz, opulent costumes by Dwight Richard Odle, and lighting designs by Donna and Tom Ruzika. This time around, however, the production is now directed by Hisa Takakuwa (based on the original staging by his predecessor John-David Keller).

Another big change for this year’s revisit to (arguably) Dickens’ most famous work is in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, A Buzz Insect, now played by SCR’s founding artist, Richard Doyle. — who takes on the role of Hal Landon, Jr., the actor who has played the Miser in the annual production of SCR for 40 consecutive years.

As Scrooge, Doyle’s take on one of literature’s most famous grumpers amplifies the character curmudgeonly with every growl, tirade and “bah humbug” he utters, creating a delicious contrast later when the character does. a full 180 after learning some essential life lessons from a group of visiting ghosts. Doyle himself has been on the annual Dickensian Tours of SCR for 36 years, and this promotion is well deserved and very well played.

BWW Review: 41st Annual Christmas Carol Production by South Coast Representative Remains Enchanting
Daniel Blinkoff, Richard Doyle

My last visit to SCR’s live version of this story was perhaps over a decade ago, and seeing it now again, it continues to be a production that can be universally enjoyed by generations — a familiar story. told in a classic but accessible way. Yes, from its first Wassail scenes of Victorian London life to its festive and so joyous end, the familiar A CHRISTMAS CAROL tale remains alive and engaging on the SCR stage, even without the temptation to introduce some consciousness. from the modern era or theatricality to procedure (the use of colorblind casting, however, is much appreciated).

While not specifically a musical, the show does include some musical elements, highlighted by dusty songs sung by the cast members as well as choreographed moments directed by Kelly Todd, based on original movements designed by Sylvia Turner.

The story itself, of course, centers around Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation and evolution, and how that transformation benefits not only his life but the lives of others — a Dickensian story arc. which has been so proven successful that modern mediums have usurped and reused it in various ways since the novel was first published in 1864.

Scrooge — an often angry aging man obsessed only with profiting from people — is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his late former partner Jacob Marley (Michael Manuel) who warns him to change his stingy ways or else suffer the same fate: to wear heavy chains for eternity like a wandering and pained spirit.

Understandably, Scrooge refuses to believe — that is, until he receives a nocturnal visit from three spirits who help light up his life: The Spirit of Christmas Past (Jennifer Parsons), who shows Scrooge his early mistakes and regrets while reminding him of the gentler man he was; The Spirit of the Christmas Gift (Richard Soto), which shows him which people in his life he deeply hurts — which includes his hardworking employee Bob Cratchit (Daniel Blinkoff) and his wife (Tamlyn Tomita) and his children, and his own nephew Fred (Sol Castillo), the only surviving member of his biological family. And, finally, Scrooge meets the Spirit of the coming Christmas, who gives him a glimpse of future events if he refuses to change his ways.

BWW Review: 41st Annual Christmas Carol Production by South Coast Representative Remains Enchanting
Richard Soto, Richard Doyle

It’s not a spoiler to say that the story sees Scrooge ultimately winning his epiphany, and so A CHRISTMAS CAROL achieves his happy ending — which means joy to his main character and those on his outskirts, and, by extension, a contagious festive holiday feeling shared with an audience.

For the younger ones who see A CHRISTMAS CAROL as their very first experience of seeing a live play, this will sound like an enjoyable introduction to the wonders of theatrical magic: the interaction of actors with their creatively created environment and their talents. cheerful clothes put on, the palpable emotions expressed by these humans and, of course, the wonder of the staging when the costumes dazzle, when sets instantly transform, and when ghosts appear out of wardrobes, beds, and lockers. feet. For us, loyal spectators, on the other hand, seeing the play again will immerse us even more in the holiday spirit.

Sure, it’s entirely possible to absorb that story and its emotions from home via its accessible (and easily streamable) film and TV adaptations, but nothing beats the holiday cheer as a member of the audience during a live production of that piece, even one. that you’ve probably seen more than once. Even now, still in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, a shared, community-based experience like live theater is worth celebrating (masked and vaccinated, preferably).

My only gripe, however, has to be in the way each ghost is “introduced” which hasn’t really changed much since I last saw production many years ago. Of course, that involves some clever staging tricks, but most of us already expect every ghost to arrive after knowing this story all of our lives. I think part of me wishes that every appearance of a new ghost was designed differently or more, uh, Magic-ized. This is a minor personal wish only because the “magic” used is something that I have already seen (and, therefore, seen coming).

BWW Review: 41st Annual Christmas Carol Production by South Coast Representative Remains Enchanting
The 2021 cast of SCR A CHRISTMAS CAROL

So in summary, in case LA’s production is just too expensive or too far away or maybe the remaining nosebleed seats just aren’t good enough, SCR’s own worthy and more intimate production is always a wonderful and worthy alternative filled with enchantment of plays and a timeless story well told.

* Follow this review on Twitter: @ cre8iveMLQ *

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Photos by Jenny Graham for the South Coast Directory.

Performances of A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens continue in the South Coast Repertory until December 26, 2021. TTickets can be purchased online at www.scr.org, by phone at (714) 708-5555 or by visiting the box office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa.

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