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The holiday classic returns with Theatre Calgary’s production of A Christmas Carol

By Eula Mengullo, Daman Singh, December 22 2023—

Theatre Calgary marks the magic of the festive season with performances of Charles Dickens’s classic novella, A Christmas Carol from Nov. 30 to Dec. 31. Directed by Stafford Arima, the effervescent — and at times, poignant — performance took the audience through the themes of redemption, compassion and humanity, underlined by the healing spirit of Christmas while introducing unforgettable characters.

Christmas Eve in London 1843, a stingy and resentful miser Ebenezer Scrooge was set on his selfish ways until he received a visit from his former business partner, Jacob Marley, foreshadowing the cursed and ominous future awaiting Scrooge in the afterlife. Trying to shake off the encounter, Scrooge is then visited by the three ghosts of Christmas — past, present and future — who take him on a journey, illuminating his past life experiences while foretelling his future. 

In his first time assuming the role of Grinch-like Scrooge, Doug Kean certainly gave his character justice, animating the complexity of a man overcome by greed, sorrow and regret. 

In the first half of the performance, the audience were given a window into Scrooge’s life, providing context for the troubled man’s would-be condition and his subsequent resignation from the community. This also included his falling out with his partner, Belle, due to his unyielding fixation on money.

One of the highlights of the show was definitely the dynamic and enthralling musical and dancing performances depicted at a Christmas Ball hosted by Scrooge’s former employer, the Fezziwigs’. Filled with joy and good cheer, the gratifying scene portrayed the significance of community, kindness and generosity, things that Scrooge deprived himself of as he slowly became blinded by the allure of wealth. 

Throughout the performance, Scott Reid’s set design was phenomenal. Taking over the task of bringing the audience to the dynamic and consistent scene changes with the limits of the performance, Reid blended in the use of video to bring the audience into a more holistic experience. The highlight of the stage design was the transition to the Spirit of the Christmas Past — it wouldn’t have been as engaging if not for the use of video with the changing stages. The stage took the audience with the actors on their journey as the story progressed.

The striking entrance of the Spirit of Christmas Present — played by Marshall Vielle — was received with awe and applause by the audience. As the Spirit revealed the life of his office clerk, Bob Cratchit, Scrooge realized the loyalty and compassion of his employee, and how his family embodied the classic values of companionship and appreciation for the simplest joys of life, despite having relatively less and being placed in a less fortunate circumstance. It is also in this scene that we are introduced to the most endearing character of the show, Tiny Tim, as Bob’s younger son who suffers from an unknown illness. 

Later on, after being visited by Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come, we learn that Tiny Tim would pass away as a result of the family’s lack of funds that made him incapable of receiving treatment. It is also shown just how pitiful Scrooge’s death would be received if he remained as he was, with members of the community celebrating his passing while his colleagues remained indifferent to his death. In these moments, Scrooge realized that he did not want to meet the aforementioned fate, and with a change of heart on Christmas morning, he greets the day a changed man.

Featuring sumptuous set and costume designs, Theatre Calgary was able to bring to life a production that made the holiday tale all the more rich, compelling and vibrant. In the end, Scrooge did make amends by extending his generosity and hosting a feast for the community, while also rekindling his relationship with his nephew Fred and his wife Emily. 

Although Dickens’s A Christmas Carol was originally set in the Victorian Era of 1843, the lessons embedded within it remain relevant in our contemporary time. In a world that can be easily distracted and single-mindedly fixated on materialism, the importance of generosity, humanity and community are underrated. Weaved with good humour and inspiration, Theatre Calgary’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol is a must-see performance that aims to teach its audience what the holidays are truly all about.

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