Theatre 121 Breathes New Life into Classic ‘A Christmas Carol’

Many theaters present the holiday classic A Christmas Carol at this time of year. The challenge is to make the story fresh and engaging.

Now playing at the Woodstock Opera House through December 8, Theatre 121’s A Christmas Carol stays true to the Charles Dickens story but manages to add new storytelling elements that make the tale even more enjoyable.

Adapted for the stage by director Thomas Neumann, this new version of A Christmas Carol provides a backstage look as a fictional 1800’s theater company mounts the Charles Dickens’ story.

Miser Ebenezer Scrooge hates everyone and everything, including Christmas. Meanwhile his lone employee Bob Cratchit, who barely can barely support his family, embraces the holiday with his loved ones.

On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner Jacob Marley. Since his death, Marley has been forced to roam the earth chained by the web of greed and corruption that he pursued in life.

Marley foretells that Scrooge will be visited by three ghosts: the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. If Scrooge can see the error of his ways through these visitors, he has a chance to save his soul.

Neumann’s script and direction are impressive. The dialog and action are traditional, yet creatively original at the same time. It makes for a very enjoyable night of theater.

As central figure Ebenezer Scrooge, Peter Heimsoth is extraordinary. He is a very talented actor who aptly displays a full range of emotions. It is a performance not to be missed.

In a casting twist, Neumann’s ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future are all female. All three are very entertaining.

Played by Jade Strong, the Ghost of Christmas Past is the most fun and expressive of the characters in the play.

The Ghost of Christmas Present as played by Tracy Lanman is bigger than life. Lanman fills the theater with a booming voice and persona.

Although she does not have the benefit of dialogue to convey her message, Charline Tiffany’s Ghost of Christmas Future remains eerie and foreboding.

Turning in one of the strongest performances of the play is Vincent Prisco, who brings to life multiple characters including the Ghost of Jacob Marley. It is Prisco’s cockney fence Old Joe that shines brightest in a play filled with grand performances.

The strong ensemble also includes Sydney Adkins, Rachel Cahill, Brian Fleming, Chris Griffin, Izzy Griffin, Robbie Hernon, Alexie Hyrkas, Derek Hyrkas, Lia Hyrkas , Christopher Plotts, Jade Strong, Gianah Tomczak, Kelsey Waughon, Matthew Zurawski. All turn in fine character interpretations. Cahill and Tomczak in particular stand out.

While there was a modicum of difficulty hearing some of the actors, for the most part the cast projects their lines with skill and exuberance. As a whole, the ensemble is delightfully good.

The production does away with traditional sets, instead using suggestive pieces to give a clean tapestry for the actors to paint their tale. This unique storytelling device is further complimented by very effectively designed lighting effects by Deb Holeman.

Neumann is a young director with just a few shows under his belt, but his original adaptation of A Christmas Carol demonstrates that he has the talent to go on to a very successful directing career. Keep him on your radar.

Theatre 121’s A Christmas Carol is just what is needed to put you in the holiday spirit. Don’t miss the chance to experience this holiday treasure.

A Christmas Carol plays Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through December 8 at the Woodstock Opera House (121 Van Buren Street, Woodstock). For tickets contact the Woodstock Opera Box Office at (815) 338-5300 or go online to www.WoodstockOperaHouse.com.

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