Entertainment

Review: “A Christmas Carol” Brings Holiday Spirits to Hartford Stage

by Mark G. Auerbach

Bill Raymond and the ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Bill Raymond and the ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Over the last 19 years, Hartford Stage’s A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas, which is a dazzling production on every level, has become a holiday tradition in Southern New England. It was adapted and directed by then Hartford Stage Artistic Director Michael Wilson. Over the years, it’s been tweaked and refreshed, and it still closely resembles the original. I don’t attend or review it every year, but this year, there’s a compelling reason to visit Hartford Stage.

Part of the original cast was Bill Raymond who plays Scrooge. Except for a couple of runs, Raymond has been the centerpiece of every performance for every production of A Christmas Carol every season. He’s retiring after the show closes, and many repeat attenders are coming back to A Christmas Carol to savor his performance one last time and to say thanks.

If there’s anything that makes this production of A Christmas Carol so special, it’s the production values–a large cast, Tony Straiges’ “totally wow” set designs, Alejo Vietti’s distinctive and detailed costumes, brilliant lighting by Robert Wierzel, and spot-on sound by John Gromada. Hope Clarke’s choreography and Ken Clark’s music direction keep this production moving.

Bill Raymond and the ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Bill Raymond and the ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

I’ve got to say that Alejo Vietti’s costumes are eye-catching. I’m amazed that Vietti could design Christmas on The Rocks down the street at TheaterWorks, and Goodspeed’s Holiday Inn, now on Broadway. The versatility and the attention to detail is deluxe.

Bill Raymond’s performance will be missed, but this company offers some other fine performances, including Vanessa R. Butler, who just starred in Hartford Stage’s Queens for a Year; Noble Shropshire, the former StageWest resident company member; Johanna Morrison, who was memorable in Ether Dome. The community kids were enthusiastic and this season’s director, Rachel Alderman, kept everything moving in synch and well-balanced–not an easy feat with a large cast.

A Christmas Carol runs approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes with intermission, and is recommended for kids 8+. Hartford Stage has also scheduled some after-performance talk backs with the cast on December 7 after the 7:30PM performance, December 10 after the 2PM matinee, and December 14 after the 7:30 performance.

A Christmas Carol runs through December 30.

Thank you, Bill Raymond and company.

The ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

The ghosts of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Hartford Stage presents A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens. Adapted and originally directed by Michael Wilson. Directed by Rachel Alderman. Music direction by Ken Clark. Choreography by Hope Clarke. Scenic design by Tony Straiges. Costume design by Alejo Vietti after Zack Brown. Lighting design by Robert Wierzel. Music and sound design by John Gromada. Through December 30. Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford, CT. For tickets: 860-527-5151 or www.hartfordstage.org.

Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio.

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