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Review: 'A Stunning Production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol'

By Richard Connema

Posted:   December 17, 2014

Since 2008, the Center REPertory Company of Walnut Creek has presented a stunning production of Dickens' A Christmas Carol. Each year they add certain things to make it one of the truly magnificent productions of the season. They certainly outdid themselves this year, with a cast of 39 actors, digital picture of Jacob Marley on Scrooge's front door, a quartet of carolers to move the show, a white dress that shines and is covered in white lights, chain-clanking ghosts, a tall black figure with skeleton hands, plus an array of sparkling apparitions. The production follows the original script with some amusing moments sprinkled in to bring it up to date a bit, thanks to its adapters Cynthia Caywood and Richard L. James.

Mark Anderson Phillips gives the role of Ebenezer Scrooge new liveliness and texture. He is phenomenal as he brings the story to life, infusing the character with the spirit of a young man, especially in the last scenes when he reminds me of the great British actor Alastair Sim who took on the role in the J. Arthur Rank film. Phillips has created a perfect voice for the character, which adds to Scrooge's weirdness and his wit.

Michael Ray Wisely is memorable as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His entrance in a puffy costume beautifully design by Michael A. Berg is spectacular—he actually "explodes" from Scrooge's bed in a storm of confetti, which drew a large ovation from the audience at the performance I attended. Wisely keeps his performance fresh and adds an extra element of fun to the production.

Other marvelous performances include Michael McCarty and Jeanine Perasso as the jovial Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, and Michael Doppe as the Young Scrooge. Jeff Draper plays a fresh and exciting specter of the ghost of Marley, and Michael Wiles gives a faultless performance as Bob Cratchit, while Ginny Wehrmeister ably supports him as Mrs. Cratchit. Kerri Shawn, dressed in a shimmering lighted white dress, gives a lovely performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Scott Denison's direction is solid and he keeps the story moving at all times. Kelly James Tighe's massive set makes you feel like you are on the streets of London. Costumes by Michael A. Berg and lighting by John Earls are spectacular. Jennifer Perry has devised a wonderful dance for the Christmas party in Fezziwig's warehouse.