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Stephen Ouimette as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo: Andrée Lanthier
Stephen Ouimette as Ebenezer Scrooge. Photo: Andrée Lanthier

Theatre Review: "A Christmas Carol" at the NAC

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A Christmas Carol is running at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through December 26. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng was at the opening night and has this review.

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Connie Meng
Theatre Critic

Thanscript: Connie Meng, 12/13/09

For the first ever production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the NAC, Artistic Director Peter Hinton has come up with a smashing version of this holiday classic.  Visually stunning, beautifully acted by the new Resident Theatre Company and with a script faithful to the Dickens story, this is a production not to be missed.

The script, adapted by Director Hinton and Dramaturge Paula Danckert, is a mix of dialogue and narration.  No one narrator speaks it - it's shared by the members of the company.  Use of Dickens's words draws us into the world of the story and seems to make the dialogue more powerful.

Eo Sharp's dark set highlights the actors.  There are some startling pictures such as the suspended chairs and the Fezziwig's chandelier.  Her costumes are equally stunning.  They're designed in the period and are primarily in shades of black and gray with touches of white, moving into colors for Christmas Present and back to black and gray with touches of vivid red for Christmas Yet to Come.

Jock Munro's lighting is simply magical, using primarily tightly focused shafts of light.  He also makes effective use of shadows, particularly in the scene devoted to selling Scrooge's deathbed possessions. 

Troy Slocum's sound is excellent, especially the periodic ticking of the clock.  Allen Cole's music is very effective, including the vocal arrangements and the choreography by Danya Tekatch provides some lively moments.

The excellent cast are members of the 40th Anniversary English Theatre Acting Company.  Aside from being very good actors, the company has been assembled from across Canada and represents the diversity of the country.  Time precludes me from mentioning everyone, as most of the actors play from two to four characters.

Geordie Johnson is an appropriately clanky Jacob Marley and Randi Helmers appropriately ghoulish as the Laundress.  Richard Donat as Mr. Fezziwig and Tanja Jacobs as his wife bring an air of good cheer to the proceedings.  Joshua Bajpai makes an appealing Tiny Tim.

Julie Tamiko Manning does a nice job as Mrs. Cratchit as does Ron Kennell as her husband Bob, and Kris Joseph is excellent as Scrooge's nephew Fred.  I especially enjoyed the unique performance of Jeremiah Sparks as the Spirit of Christmas Present.  It's a strong and very entertaining take on the role.

Stephen Ouimette, the sole non-member of the company, is a perfect Scrooge.  One of Canada's best-known actors, his Scrooge is not a villain, but a misanthrope.  His growing fear and belief in the spirits are subtle and believable.  His waking scene, including his failed attempt to dress, is wonderfully funny.  I wish it had gone on a bit longer.

Director Peter Hinton has done a splendid job of combining a traditional story with contemporary theatre techniques.  He's also to be congratulated for reinstating a resident company - and such an interesting one.  A CHRISTMAS CAROL displays the high level of creativity in both dramatic and production values I've come to expect from Peter Hinton.

On a scale of one to five the National Arts Centre English Theatre Company production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL gets five Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a little drummer boy.  For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.

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