It’s that time of the year. Time to venture in attics and storage cabinets to retrieve holiday decorations. Time to pull out your Great-Grandmother’s recipe card for the family’s “best ever” dessert selection. Time to pen list, after list, after list of holiday gift items. And, in your spare time, attend one or more local holiday entertainment offerings. Will it be a graceful Nutcracker, or a rousing Messiah sing-along, or a stage production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL? This year, I started my holiday cultural excursions with A CHRISTMAS CAROL at The Candlelight Theatre.
If you’ve never been to Candlelight Theatre, let me first start by telling you this is dinner theater. (I believe Candlelight is the only remaining year-round dinner theater in Delaware.) Dinner and a show; I’m all for multi-tasking. My companion and I were quickly seated at a cozy table just on the outskirts of many other tables occupied by folks from a travel bus group. (Now, you know for certain this is dinner theater.) The doors to the theater open two hours prior to curtain, which is more than ample time to enjoy the nice selection of dinner food options. Dessert options are also varied. However, if you yearn for the “Nearly Famous” Brownie Sundae, you’ll have to order that when first seated and wait until intermission to enjoy. Such decadence, of course, is at an additional charge. There also is a full service bar, drink specials and a respectable wine list (all at a reasonable additional charge). Ok, the dinner portion of dinner theater has been covered. Moving on to the theater portion of dinner theater.
I must admit, I was a bit confused when I began to read through the show’s program. I assumed (yes, I did that horrible thing of assuming) that givEN it was dinner theater, and Candlelight is known for musical theater offerings, that the show I was seeing was a musical version of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I was wrong. This is a play with music inserted here and there for effect only. The music does nothing to further the story line. Oh well, plays are nice, too.
Overall, Bob Kelly’s adaption resembles any other CHRISTMAS CAROL version. The old miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge (Barry Gomolka) is haunted by his former friend and business partner, Jacob Marley (Dan Healy) and three ghosts, The Ghost of Christmas Past (Lindsay Mauck), Present (Jim Rubright) and Future (James Challenger) in the hope of saving the greedy, old curmudgeon from himself and the desolate life he has created. Can Scrooge become a man of kindness, generosity and compassion?
Barry Gomolka is a formidable Scrooge. He has the look, the voice and the movement of any Scrooge I’d want to see. What I liked best about Gomolka’s interpretation is that he actually makes you empathize with Scrooge at all the right moments. There’s no way you can hate Scrooge when you looked at his tearful, puppy dog eyes while Belle (deftly played by Brigid Rose) is breaking off their engagement. Gomolka allows you to see beneath the hard exterior without being a totally transparent sap. I would like to see Gomolka play more into Scrooge’s internal frustration with himself and past actions to increase the effectiveness of his transformation. Along the same lines, I prefer my ghostly interactions to fall on the dark and ominous side of astral communiqués to counterbalance lighter moments. Neither Marley nor the three Christmas Ghosts transmitted any remarkable aura of doom and gloom.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL is a work full of short scenes requiring many, many actors. For this production, a good number of actors play multiple roles, with several taking a turn as the Narrator. And, because this is dinner theater, some actors work as wait staff prior to the show. My server, Max Redman, did a splendid job as Fred, Scrooge’s nephew. I must also applaud the work of Madeline Redfern as Fran, Scrooge’s sister. Her scene is short but, WOW, does she make an impact. I am always captivated by young actors who know how to best use their natural talent.
Kudos to Scenic Designer, Jeff Reim, for a creative set with efficient changes. The period costumes (Timm Cannon) nicely add to the tone of each scene and character. There seemed to be a few gremlins running amok in the lighting and sound departments. My least favorite technical aspect was the fog. There was so much fog that seeing the actors proved a challenge well after the intended effect was completed. There was so much fog that interior scenes played as if the 1666 Great Fire of London was being staged. There was so much fog that a gentleman sitting next to me said he considered leaving at intermission because it was irritating his sinuses. (He stayed for Act Two, but used his program throughout as a fan to shoo away the smoke.)
What grabbed (and kept) my attention throughout was the use of dance. Choreographer, Jody Anderson, did a splendid job. I actually found myself wanting more dancing and less acting. Perhaps Anderson should create a dance inspired adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Music Director, Dave Snyder, smatters the play with a variety of musical genres ranging from traditional Christmas carols to Orff’s Carmina Burana.
Candlelight’s staging of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is holiday entertainment that should be shared and enjoyed by many.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Adapted by Bob Kelly
Based on the novella by Charles Dickens
Stage Director – Bob Kelly
Music Director – David Snyder
Choreography – Jody Anderson
November 14 – December 23, 2014
The Candlelight Theatre
2208 Millers Road
Ardentown, DE 19810