Michael Kary as Scrooge Makes ‘Christmas Carol’ a Seasonal Delight
Review by Doug Carroll
GCU News Bureau
Photos by Jak Keyser
If you’re going to put on “A Christmas Carol,” you’d better bring out your best lights, tinsel and ornaments, or it’s not worth doing.
That seems to be the philosophy of GCU’s College of Fine Arts and Production in presenting the Dickens holiday classic this year. The Ethington Theatre edition, which opened over the weekend with the first three of seven shows, is an all-hands-on-deck effort bound to impress even the most discerning fans of the well-known story.
Amlin Gray‘s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” gets the college’s very best shot, with Dean Claude Pensis‘ nuanced direction, Assistant Dean Bill Symington‘s creative staging, a 52-member cast that includes most of GCU’s top student talent and the incomparable Michael Kary as Ebenezer Scrooge.
Kary alone would make this a must-see production, based on the way he brings Christmas’ all-time No. 1 curmudgeon to life, graduating from grumpy to giddy in a span of 90 minutes. If you liked him as the Major General in “The Pirates of Penzance” two years ago — and who didn’t? — then you’ll love him in this role.
As Scrooge’s heart slowly melts, revealing to him the error of his ways, Kary finds the right balance between bitter and better. There’s always the temptation to play Scrooge over the top, but Kary, a GCU theatre instructor and alumnus, exhibits a veteran’s restraint and the production benefits accordingly. It’s a pleasure to watch such an accomplished actor at work, and when a heartbroken Scrooge bellows “Monster!” at his old self — with the Ghost of Christmas Past (Joy Flatz) as his tour guide — we identify with the pain and ugliness that often accompany self-revelation. Kary makes us care about Scrooge’s fate, and that’s not easily done with a story so familiar.
Symington’s two-sided, revolving set is every bit as big of a star as Kary. It’s home to no fewer than nine locations, and the spooky special effects that herald the visitation of each ghost are terrific. Pensis’ lighting — an underrated aspect of the quality productions at Ethington — helps create a dark, wintry mood to match Scrooge’s dour disposition.
With Kary carrying the show, the rest of the cast collectively plays a supporting role. Particularly noteworthy in Sunday’s matinee were Nathan de Laet as the earnest Bob Cratchit, Josh Vanderpoel as the jolly Ghost of Christmas Present, Ryan Usher as Scrooge’s nephew Fred and Bruce Hendershott as the creepy ragpicker Old Joe. Kary’s young sons Izaak and Johnathan also are in the show, the latter in the role of Tiny Tim (“God bless us, everyone!”).
Whether you’re a Christmas loyalist or, like Scrooge, you mostly want to be left alone by the season, Ethington’s “A Christmas Carol” is a gift worth giving to yourself.
The second and final weekend of “A Christmas Carol” includes performances at 7:30 p.m. Friday, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday. Call 639.8880 for tickets.
Contact Doug Carroll at 639.8011 or firstname.lastname@example.org.