Originally Published: November 29, 2011 9:43 p.m.
Ebenezer Scrooge may have been tightfisted with his money, sour on Christmas, alienated from family and the classic grump.
But Prescott Center for the Arts' production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," skimps on nothing - from acting to costuming to the stage set - to bring this classic alive on the Elks Opera House stage.
Directed by Sean Jeralds, the play opens with narrator Charles Dickens, played by Herb Voss, outfitted in gentlemanly attire of the period, who gives the first hint that the PCA production will remain true to the very words the famous author penned in 1843.
At the time Dickens wrote his novella in the early Victorian era, interest in reviving Christmas traditions that had waned in Britain began a nostalgic revival. Many credit "A Christmas Carol" with bringing merriment back to the holiday season.
Jeralds chose the Elks Opera House to stage the play "because of the classic nature of the theater" and the stage's spaciousness. Prescott is "Christmas City and the Elks is the perfect setting" for "A Christmas Carol," he said, adding that he chose Tony Palermo's radio drama rendition of Dickens' story because "it is adapted right out of the book."
Costuming was a key aspect of presenting "A Christmas Carol," Jeralds said. "Wendy Miller was the woman with vision," he said.
Miller, who is also assistant director, designed costumes for the entire cast of 40, with the help of Karen Murphy and Brooke Williams, after hours of researching and ingenuity, such as finding chains amongst Halloween trappings for ghost Jacob Marley's costume.
The actors Jeralds cast in "A Christmas Carol" roles walk right out of the book as well. Brad Newman as Scrooge is indeed Scrooge when he all but throws out of his office a charity seeking donations for the poor, turns a deaf ear to his nephew, Fred, who extols Christmas "as a time to think of others," and only begrudgingly lets office worker Bob Cratchit leave at 7 on Christmas Eve and have Christmas Day off.
But there is change in the wind when Scrooge goes home to eat his bowl of gruel and settle in for the night. The ghost of his dead partner Marley (Randy Faulkner) appears, in chains, and tells him, "Mark my words. You too shall be in chains upon your death. I've come to warn you. You shall be haunted by three spirits."
Alysia Kuknyo, as the Spirit of Christmas Past, gently escorts Scrooge through scenes of his lonely childhood, and the loss of the love of his life "because she was replaced by a 'golden idol.'" The Spirit of Christmas Present (Richard Wolfe) transports Scrooge to the streets of London on a bright Christmas Day, forewarning him that "Tiny Tim will die," using Scrooge's own words against him: "That will reduce the world's surplus population. Wouldn't you want that?"
"Oh, no," says Scrooge.
By the time he beholds the Spirit of Christmas Future (Tim Sestak), Scrooge is melting. He sees the vision of the grieving Cratchit family and his own grave, and says over and over to the spirit, "I can change. I will change. I will change. I can change."
"I think it's one of the greatest pieces in literature," Newman said. "The specific language in this adaptation really allows Scrooge to tell the story of redemption" and "in telling this story, we see how he became hardened at Christmas" - from his loneliness and his way out of workhouses to becoming one of the merchants in the exchange.
"He resolves to learn the lessons the spirits have shown him. At the end, he rejoins his family and the family of man. Christmas reminds us of this."
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 1, through Saturday, Dec. 3, Thursday, Dec. 8, and Saturday, Dec. 10. Matinees are at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 4, and Saturday, Dec. 10. There is no Dec. 9 performance due to the Acker Musical Showcase. Tickets are $12 for children and $17 for adults.
To order, call 445-3286, visit the Prescott Center for the Arts box office, 208 N. Marina, or log onto www.pca-az.net.