Denver Center production is back in a newly renovated Wolf Theatre after two-year hiatus
Perhaps nothing says “We’re back!” at the Denver Center more than the return of its (usually) annual production of A Christmas Carol. In this case, the show was delayed for two years, with the 2019 show on hiatus due to the renovation and rebirth of the Stage Theatre into the Wolf Theatre.
There are any number of takes on Dickens’ classic tale of the miserable miser Ebenezer Scrooge being taught the real meaning of Christmas by ghosts, but this version adapted by Richard Hellesen is quite true to the original. With music by David de Berry, it’s not quite a full musical but has plenty of big numbers beautifully choreographed by Christine Rowan.
Melissa Rain Anderson is back in the director’s chair, keeping the show largely similar to the ones she helmed from 2016 to 2018. One thing that looked a bit different to me was with the Ghost of Christmas Future — the grim reaper guy. Rather than have the character looming malevolently over Scrooge, it’s only seen in the shadows, occasionally illuminated by flashes of lightning. While it lent another layer of mystery to this particular ghost, it also diluted some of the scary. Scrooge is plenty inspired by seeing his own gravestone to change his ways, but I missed some of that extra motivation to change from a truly frightening future ghost.
Also unexpectedly new this year, Sam Gregory, a DCPA regular who has proven to be a most excellent Scrooge since 2016, was fired just last week for bad behavior. (Read John Moore’s story in The Denver Gazette if you’d like to know more about this unfortunate set of circumstances.)
Understudy Timothy McCracken is now filling the role, and for the most part it appeared to be a seamless transition in terms of lines, blocking and the like. If you like your Scrooge with a bit more levity, McCracken delivers — teasing added laughs in a variety of places and coming across overall as only about 75% of the asshole we’re accustomed to Scrooge being.
Laughs are good to break up a dark story, but some of the takes McCracken uses for laughs undermine the need for Scrooge to be a thoroughly despicable human being deserving of any bad thing that happens to him. The last thing you want in a Scrooge is to like him at all before his Christmas morning epiphany. Otherwise, McCracken makes a fine Scrooge who was clearly well prepared to step into the role.
Many other favorites are back in their roles, including Erick Pinnick, whose Ghost of Christmas Present is a Hagrid-y, bombastic whirlwind. Leslie O’Carroll is back to play Mrs. Fezziwig — always a crowd favorite, as is Michael Fitzpatrick as the monumentally effervescent Mr. Fezziwig. Jeffrey Roark reprises his fantastic and truly scary Jakob Marley (his arrival caused several children in the audience to burst into tears) and Katy Tang, new in the Christmas Past role, does a nice job in her gleaming whites. Another standout is DCPA newcomer Brian Vaughn as Bob Cratchit, who artfully balances the role of subservient clerk at Scrooge & Marley with his warm, strong presence among his family.
Cast disruptions aside, this production of A Christmas Carol is the gold standard in Colorado, and it holds up year after year. Just give the little ones a heads-up about Marley right after Scrooge hears that ringing bell …