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reviewed by Vickie Cornelius Phipps

Indiana Repertory Theatre celebrates Christmas 2017 once again with it’s warm, loving stage classic of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, directed by Executive Artistic Director, Janet Allen. The opening night celebration with alumni actors joining the festivities on stage for the final song, and the after show champagne toast was enjoyed by a full house to kick off this timeless tradition for the 25th year. The play, with a single stunning set by Russell Metheny, covered with snow and framed in iron, presents the story through multiple characters’ narration. The raked stage, trap doors, and clever set displays of villages brought in by sleds, add to the scene changes while the cast switches roles seamlessly.

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Joey Collins, Emily Ristine, Maddie Medley, and Ryan Artzberger in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

Dickens’ story, written in 1843, has been called by some a “sledge hammer” against the ills of industrialism and consumerism. Dickens’ own father had been sent to debtors’ prison, and Charles Dickens himself, at the age of 12, bitterly remembered having to leave school and work in a boot blacking factory near Convent Garden. He modeled Bob Cratchit’s lifestyle from his own experiences living in Camden Town, London. Dickens demonstrates that even in poverty, the winter holiday can inspire good will and generosity towards one’s neighbors. He shows that the spirit of Christmas has not been lost in the race to industrialize, but can live on in our world.

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Ashley Dillard, Ryan Artzberger, Charles Pasternak, and Mark Goetzinger in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

My two favorite rituals every Christmas are to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” and to see a production of A Christmas Carol. IRT has been that tradition. Each performance has its own personality and each of the actors give a little of themselves to the roles. Ebenezer Scrooge, (Ryan Artzberger) returns as a youthful version of the sarcastic character but still possesses the cold hearted, miserly manners of a man who lives in isolation and does not enjoy Christmas. On the eve of Christmas, Scrooge is visited by his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley (Charles Goad), who died seven years prior. Being punished for his own stingy and greedy behavior, he warns Scrooge not to repeat the same behaviors, and to give up his selfishness and instead serve with a good heart so he doesn’t bear the results of his own greed in the afterlife.

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Ryan Artzberger and Charles Goad in IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

In serial order, Scrooge is visited by the Ghost of Christmas Past, (Emily Ristine) whose delightful voice takes Scrooge on a painful remembrance of life as a boy. Followed by the Ghost of Christmas Present (Milicent Wright), who returns as the feisty and funny spirit showing Scrooge the plight of the Cratchit family led again by Jeremy Fisher and Ms. Ristine as Bob and Mrs. Cratchit. To complete the family, Gideon Roark, Miles M. Morey, Jordan Pecar, Nina R. Morey, Camil McGhee, Aidan Betts, Ali D. Boice, Elise Keliah Benson, Tobin Seiple, and Maddie Medley, share the roles as the Cratchit children. This year, Scott Greenwell portrays the silent Christmas Future who reveals the prospect of demise for Scrooge. I especially enjoyed his subtle comic relief. Jennifer Johansen as Mrs. Fezziwig and Joey Collins, (Schoolmaster, et al.) are creative scene stealers. Ashley Dillard plays the adoring Belle while Charles Pasternak is entertaining and energetic as the nephew Fred and as Young Scrooge. The audience is treated by being surrounded from time to time with acapella singing blended beautifully into the scenes, under the musical direction of Terry Woods. Michael Lincoln’s lighting design and Murell Horton’s costumes are picturesque.

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The cast of IRT’s 2017 production of “A Christmas Carol”.

You revisit the experience because you love the story and the characters. Out of all the versions, A Christmas Carol is best experienced on a live stage. It remains one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time. Check out IRT’s Special Events for the whole family, A Christmas Carol & Holiday Hoopla. Reserve your tickets soon at www.irtlive.com. This show continues through December 24th.

  • Banner artwork by Kyle Ragsdale
  • Photos by Zach Rosing
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