Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman
aka “The Howard”
Production: A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas
Theater: The Hartford Stage
Playwright: Charles Dickens
Director: Rachel Alderman
The Howard Exhale – A Christmas Carol – a highly emotional production that makes one truly believe in the season –
Every December, between mistletoe and glad-tidings, Egg-nog, and Yule logs, comes a most beloved ritual – a return to see the annual theatrical production of Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas” at The Hartford Stage. From all across New England, legions journey to this glorious holiday institution now in its 22nd season. I have steadfastly and happily joined these “Carolers” in revisiting , “A Christmas Carol” for the past two decades, and just like Ebenezer Scrooge discovers, – this highly emotional production does indeed makes one truly believe in the season – as Scrooge exclaims -‘I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me.”
I have in the past told you about this joyous “Annual Gathering” of “Fan Fans”, “Scrooge-ettes” and dotty “Dilber-doos” and of course the “Society of Scrooge’s”- with their “bah humbug” conventions all converging to the Hartford Stage to witness the A.C.C.. But have I ever mentioned that this production has a secret? A secret once shared, will now no longer be an illusion, but a delightful discovery! The secret – my friends, in the midst of a most dedicated group of performers, with their portrayals from Scrooge to Mrs. Dilber, to Tiny Tim- I want you to take note of a youthful group of young actors in training who portray many of the Victorian supporting roles in A.C.C. – everything from party guests to those lovable spirited ghosts you see dancing and flying above the audience. They are all from the University of Hartford’s Hartt School – performing arts conservatory, and they are ALL truly truly exceptional young actors affectionately known at the Hartford Stage as “The Hartt School Ensemble”.
For over 16 years – these students, as noted – “The Hartt School Ensemble” have been a part of not only A.C.C. but participate in many Hartford Stage productions throughout the year. In fact, the Hartt School/Hartford Stage “Partnership In Training” offers a unique alliance of an undergraduate acting conservatory program with a respected professional theater. With their high energy, enthusiasm and budding talent – these young folks are indeed a major reason why this production of “A Christmas Carol” is so captivating and prized by all. We delight in seeing these student actors share their talents- acting, singing dancing with a welcoming audience, and are indeed honored to bear witness to our future stars of Broadway, television, music and more!
To these future stars, I thank you for the wonderful opportunity to see you at the start of your careers and rightly state you all have achieved the coveted “The Howard Noticed You Award” including: Evan Ayers, Scott Burrows, Madeline Dalton, Pedro Fontes, Megan Gwyn, Renee Hampton, Sarah Milnamow, Natalie Noack, William O’Brian, Nathan Podziewski, Brendan Roque, Kiera Sheehan and Katie Walsh.
During those two decades – I’ve had the most wonderful opportunity to see the original Michael Wilson production from the start with its many original “stars” including the great Bill Raymond as Ebenezer, the most beautiful and talented Johanna Morrison as “Christmas Past”, Bill Kux as Mrs. Dilber, plus those who have gone on to other careers including producer/director/actor Eric Bloomquist, and lead vocalist for the progressive rock band “CIRCULINE” – Miss Natalie Brown. Hopefully, one day there will be a reunion of the original cast. In fact, on December 17th 2019, the Hartford Stage will perform their 1000th performance of “A Christmas Carol” – what a wonderful achievement and testament to this long-standing holiday tradition. Bravo Hartford Stage!
Our current leads include- Michael Preston, in his third year, is once again our heartless miserly Mr. Ebenezer – he provides us all a simply wonderful – deplorable “Bah-Humbug”! The extraordinary actor, Mr. Noble Shropshire, once again STEALS this production “oh so” handily – what a delight to behold! Dual roles that are not to be missed- Mrs. Dilber with her newly minted duster and that of Jacob Marley- Noble is the “gold standard” of this production!
Our three spirits – Rebecka Jones returns to the role of Bettye Pidgeon, Spirit of Christmas Past and Krusty Old Josie. Alan Rust- he literally has the grandest entrance of all, as the “Spirit of Christmas Present” and Bert the cider vender and John-Andrew Morrison portrays the marvelous Mr. Marvel.
The cast also includes Terrell Donnell Sledge as Fred; the extraordinary Robert Hannon Davis as Bob Cratchit; Shauna Miles as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit; Vanessa R. Butler as Belle and Fred’s Wife; Kenneth De Abrew as First Solicitor, Undertaker, Mr. Fezziwig; Buzz Roddy as second solicitor; Tiny Tim is portrayed by Samuel “Sammy” Grear and Benjamin O’Brian, and finally for all you “Fan-Fans”- Lillian Peng and Princess-Larrine Madelynn Moore portray the coveted role of the one and only- “Fan”.
Once again, I urge all who delight in the true essence of the holidays to bring their family and friends to this extraordinary production of Hartford Stage’s annual holiday presentation of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story”. Both memorable and heartfelt- it will leave you wiping away a wayward tear at plays end – and that my friends is a good thing! Wishing all a very Merry Yuletide and a Happy Turning of the Calendar. Enjoy!
Tickets for the Hartford Stage production of “A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas” are on sale now and can be purchased by calling (860) 527-5151 or by visiting http://www.hartfordstage.org. Weeknight and evening performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Matinee performances are Saturdays, Sundays and select weekdays at 2 p.m.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.