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By Pat Craig

12/2/09

First off, I have to confess I'm a sucker for A Christmas Carol. The classic tale of the haunting and redemption of a coldblooded tightwad has been a favorite of mine since I was a small boy sitting in front of the phonograph listening to my aunt's scratchy 78s playing the tale.

Since then, I have seen any number of movies, TV shows and theatrical productions of the Dickens story. But my favorite has become the adaptation of the story by Cynthia Caywood and Richard L. James presented annually by Walnut Creek's Center Repertory Company.

The show returns for its 12th year at 8 pm Thursday in the Lesher Center for the Arts, where the big stage at the center is turned into a wintry piece of 19th-century London and the magical transformation of Scrooge (played by Jack Powell) from humbugging grouch to jolly Mr. Generosity begins.


Joint Forces Journal

December 2010

Center REPertory Company of Walnut Creek presents A Christmas Carol, currently through December 19, 2010. Directed by Scott Denison, A Christmas Carol is the third production of Center REP's 44th subscription season.

A Christmas Carol is the classic tale of the grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge's visits with his Christmas past, present and future and his eventual rekindling of the joy of Christmas.

Center REP originally performed A Christmas Carol at the Old Nut House theater, years before the Dean Lesher Center in Walnut Creek, Calif. opened. The production has come a long way from the small beginnings of East Bay regional theater. It has become one of the most performed shows at the Lesher.

Placed at the helm of one of the most popular and retold Christmas tales, director Scott Denison focuses on keeping his version fresh and familiar simultaneously. The freshness comes from out-of-this-world special effects, and familiarity comes through the story and the recurring cast of characters that audiences from around the Bay Area have come to know and love each holiday season.

"We've developed each and every magical moment in the show," Denison says.

That translates into complex, beautiful sets, and lighting schemes, and a production rich with dazzling effects including magical entrances and exits, a 12-1/2 foot ghost of Christmas future and a blanket of snow during the finale. A new effect his year involves objects that zoom above the audience's heads, but the rest of the new supernatural happenings are being kept under wraps until the curtain rises.

Jack Powell is back for his fifth year as Ebenezer Scrooge, the villain and eventual hero of A Christmas Carol. "We have really readapted the story and changed it, so it's not the Christmas Carol that was there 28 years ago," Denison says. "We look at all the happy and fun times Scrooge had, instead of the dismal, scary moments."

The entire cast focuses on molding their characters into real people, who bring winter-time London town to life and give the production a special, once-a-year feeling every night of the play's run.

A Christmas Carol has become one of the most successful productions of the season. Resplendent with magical effects, the classic holiday spirit of the theatrical version of A Christmas Carol proves to be a local favorite year after year.


By Charles Jarrett

12/16/09

Center REP Director Scott Denison has honed his artistic palette down to a fine art with his current production of Charles Dickens' heartwarming tale of reclamation. No matter how many times I see this company's production, even in its 12th reincarnation, this great show always warms the cockles of my heart. The cast is re-engaged again this year, for the most part, in the same roles, but with a few important (albeit subtle) changes to add some spice and variety.

Scrooge is once again captured perfectly by Jack Powell. It seems that even though I raved about his genuinely moving performance last year, he has even grown more believable this year. Bob Cratchit is again played convincingly by Jesse Caldwell. Marley's Ghost is even better this year with the sterling performance of Jeff Draper, and Evan Lachman is quite excellent as Tiny Tim, a role played 11 years ago by his older brother, Daniel. Daniel has moved on to play Tiny Tim's older brother, Peter Cratchit, in this production.

Michael A. Berg delivers the most delightful Fezziwig ever and Michael Ray Wisely is back again (thank goodness) as the wonderfully whimsical and devilish Ghost of Christmas Present. Wisely's portrayal is one I really look forward to each yeaer, as he is the best of the best in this wonderful role. Kerri Shwan superbly reprises the role of Mrs. Cratchit.

One important contributor each year is the quartet that adds Christmas music to enhance the mood. This quartet presents clear and beautiful tones and its members consist of Robin Melnick, Barbara Reynolds, Tim Reynolds and Molly Thornton. As you are well aware, there is a plethora of fine acting talents that brings this show to full realization, far more than I could begin to applaud individually.

Fine actors who know their roles and their character bring A Christmas Carol to life again and again, but it could never happen without the excellent creative team that consists of Scott Denison, costume designer Melissa Anne Davis, choreographer Jennifer Perry, sound designer Jeff Mockus, music director Mark Hanson and lighting designer John Earls.

Certainly everyone must be familiar with this tale of the hard-hearted money lender, Scrooge, who considers Christmas reveling a humbug! This is the magical story of how his former business partner, Jacob Marley, returns to the living world on the eve of his death to give his old associate a spiritual warning that his life on earth will influence his experience of life in the afterworld. He foretells of visitations from three spirits who will arrive, one after the other. They are his only means of possible redemption and will give him one opportunity to amend his heartless ways and find redemption in the eyes of his fellow men.

This perfect theatrical experience lightens the heart and encourages even more compassion toward those less fortunate than ourselves, in these very difficult times.