By Bob Evans
Nothing says “Christmas” like the lighting of the Plaza lights on Thanksgiving night, but nearby, the KC Rep continues its own annual celebration with the 38th consecutive production of the Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” that delights audiences when miserly, curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge unlocks the joy and jolly one Christmas morning.
Family-friendly productions like “A Christmas Carol” at the KC Rep make the holiday spirit more fulfilling. This production should be added to everyone’s Christmas season because it creates a happy holiday feeling and leaves audiences feeling like the spirit of the season has arrived. The Rep does it right.
Keeping the classic tale polished, the Rep changes the cast on a regular basis and also toys with the version presented so that the cast remains fresh and their approach to their roles change as well. This year, Christmas Past and Christmas Present bring an entirely new and brighter characterization to the production. Christmas Past appears more sprite-like and decked out in all white. Christmas Present blossoms as a larger than life persona with an energy that touches the
last rows of the balcony and draws them close.
“A Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 16-30 in Spencer Theatre on the UMKC campus and features a superior cast of Kansas City’s strongest thespians dressed in appropriate Dickens’ attire and with masterful English accents.
The 2018 show brings a new take on the classic as director Marissa Wolf made significant changes to last year’s version that was crafted by departed artistic director Eric Rosen. The Rosen version depicted a darker story by going back to Dickens original text and using more darker themes. Wolf kept a lot of Rosen’s work in place, but added more music, more laughter, and lighter tones for her vision of “A Christmas Carol.”
From audience reaction at intermission of opening night, the lighter version encouraged enthusiastic responses. And, the general spirit of the audience after the production gave the show an enthusiastic thumbs up. Such comments as, “We come every year”; “This is our third year;” “We’re going to do this again, next year;” “I really enjoyed this version:’ were just a few of the parting comments of the audience.
With 38 years of history to serve as the foundation of the production, success comes in presenting good actors in good parts. Well-known local actors, Gary Neal Johnson and Mark Robbins set the tone for the show as Ebenezer Scrooge and author Charles Dickens. Robbins serves as Charles Dickens, introducing his story and dropping into the story at times to add some needed commentary and bridge the scenes. Johnson remains on stage almost the entire show because the audience experiences the miracle of the Christmas spirit through his skinflint persona. Both actors convey the unending charm of the Dickens novella.
“I am thrilled to carry the torch for this gorgeous, beloved Kansas City tradition this season,” says Wolf. “I’m excited to bring a magical, lively, moving journey to life that will speak to audiences of all backgrounds and all ages.”
“A Christmas Carol” is a novella by Charles Dickens about Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old businessman, who is well-known for his ‘bah-humbug’ ways, especially around the Christmas holiday season.
On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by a series of ghosts, starting with his old business partner, Jacob Marley (Walter Coppage). The three spirits which follow, the Ghosts of Christmas Present (Shanna Jones), Christmas Past (Bree Elrod) and Christmas Yet to Come (Bradley Thomas), show Scrooge how his behavior has affected those around him. At the end of the story he is relieved to discover that there is still time for him to change and we see him transformed into a more generous and kind-hearted soul.
From the cast through the creative team that create the on stage magic, KC Rep produces one of the best local production seen in the metro annually. “A Christmas Carol” continues to be tops in the area. With such strong performances and presentation no other local company could compete with this production. It’s A-1 perfect. The entire cast and crew should be proud to be associated with the show.
The 2018 production of “A Christmas Carol” features the following cast: Gary Neal Johnson as Scrooge, Mark Robbins as Dickens, Walter Coppage as Marley, Bree Elrod as Christmas Past, Shanna Jones as Christmas Present, Bradley Thomas as Christmas Yet-to-Come/Dick Wilkins, Logan Black as Bob Cratchit, Nicole Marie Green as Mrs. Cratchit, Sam Cordes as Fred/Young Ebenezer, Brianna Woods as Mrs. Fred/Belle, John Rensenhouse as Fezziwig/Old Joe, Peggy Friesen as Mrs. Fezziwig/Harp, Lauren Braton (Quartet, Soprano), Alison Jones (Quartet, Alto), Joseph Carr (Quartet, Tenor), John-Michael Zuerlein (Quartet, Bass), Cheryl Weaver as Charwoman, Ashley Wheat (ensemble), Khalif Gillett as Topper, Marianne McKenzie as Laundress, Jason Francescon as Undertaker, Freddy Acavedo (ensemble), Jonathan Schriock (violin), and Mike Prucha (reeds). There are also two youth ensembles of twelve actors each that alternate performances throughout the production.
The youth rotating ensemble is: Daniel Bryan, Ava Ellenberg, Estelle Gordon, Mel Jones, Richelle King, Ike McKee, Ellie Shae McManamy, Lainey McManamy, Benjamin Priestland, Aidan Seymour, Moss Terrell, Tripp Starr, Emma Andrews, Kasey Crockett, Elliott Daggett, James Hawkins, Maggie Herber, Savaughn McClaine, Aria Smith, Tess Sollars, Drew Squire, Criston Starks, Sam Wise.
The creative team for the production consists of Marissa Wolf, Director; John Ezell, Scenic Design; Stella Tag, Costume Design; Kaitlyn Pietras and Jason Thompson, Lighting and Projections Design, Joshua Horvath, Sound Design; Anthony Edwards, Music Director, Rufus Burns, Assistant Director, and Jonathan Schriock, Assistant Music Director. Sadie DeSantis serves as the Production Stage Manager.
Tickets for “A Christmas Carol” start at $38 and may be purchased by visiting http://kcrep.org/show/ACC or by calling the KCRep box office at 816-235-2700. Groups of nine or more receive discounted tickets by calling Andrew at 816-235-6122.
Tags: A Christmas Carol, KC Rep, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, UMKC, Kansas City Theater, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment