As a proud 90s kid, yours truly can recall more than a few versions which had particular influence (or, is in the case of the VHI TV film, simply pure entertainment) in the retelling of the timeless tale: an 26-minute animated short by Disney (Mickey’s Christmas Carol), which featured Scrooge McDuck as the infamous main character; as well as another with the Muppets (The Muppet Christmas Carol), featuring Kermit in full-out Dickensian costume. There was that totally campy, glittery and positively lol-worthy adaptation on VH1 (A Diva’s Christmas Carol) starring Vanessa Williams as a Scrooge-like pop star (minus the top hat, spectacles and grey beard, of course), and let’s not forget the fairly recent computer-animated version to which Jim Carrey lent his vocal stylings.
These days, not much about the story — or its young audience — has changed. The times, however, have — and in this tech-obsessed world we’re living in now, it is refreshing to see the next generation engage in something other than what is on a screen in front of them. There is nothing like sitting in a theater filled with kids hanging onto the edge of their seats — and onto every word being performed onstage. The performance in question was not the latest pop star (sorry, Taylor Swift), but TITAN Theatre Company‘s production of A Christmas Carol at the Queens Theatre.
The story itself should be a familiar one by now: we are introduced — and given expository background — to Ebenezer Scrooge (Kevin Loomis) by various nameless characters, who describe the old man’s descent into bitterness following the death of his business partner Jacob Marley (Andy Baldeschwiler) 7 years prior to the play’s start. We see evidence of Scrooge’s cold heart through his mistreatment of those around him: namely, his nephew, Fred (Dylan Wittrock), who attempts to invite his uncle to partake in Christmas Eve festivities; as well as his office clerk, Bob Cratchit (John Taylor Phillips), to whom the old miser has refused an increase in what is already a meager salary.
Then, of course, as he makes his way home and into his bed, he is suddenly visited by an apparition of Marley’s Ghost, who ominously announces that Scrooge shall be visited by the ghosts of Christmases Past (TITAN company member Laura Frye), Present (fellow company member Michael Selkirk) and Future (also played by Baldeschwiler). Over the course of the night, these three ghosts literally lead Scrooge on a journey backwards, forwards — and even sideways — in time, getting to the root of how the old miser became who he was.
In re-enacting these classic scenes to the next generation, TITAN’s talented round of cast members surely do Dickens justice. The return of company regulars Frye and Selkirk prove once again to be a winning combination, along with fellow standouts Wittrock and the production’s own Scrooge, Loomis himself. The inclusion of child actors also help in not only help fully round out the cast, but also provide the younger members of the audience with another element to the story with which to relate to. As both Tiny Tim and the “present-day” grandson in the opening scene, Moore Theobald gamely holds his own with his elder counterparts, as does his brother Quinn in the roles of Peter and a much younger Scrooge.
As you can see, Dickens’ Carol has been a cultural mainstay, always seeming to find a way to remain relevant in our modern society. From the beginning of TITAN’s production, which opens with Loomis as a present-day grandfather reading it to his grandson, we are reminded once again of the timelessness of Dicken’s tale. While their interpretation of the material is less a “modernized” one, period clothing and language remaining largely intact, what seems to make this story modern is in the fact that its themes are still ones we grasp with today — mainly, how greed can corrupt even the most purest of heart, and how ultimately, forgiveness can be the best gift of all.
Combined with an elegant production design, with sets by Jasmine Nicole and costumes by Becky Willet, TITAN proves once more that everything old can be new again.
Images courtesy of Lloyd Mulvey.