What: A Christmas Carol
Where: The Citadel’s Maclab Theatre
When: December 7 – 23, 2017
Tickets: Start at $30 plus GST and fees; purchasable online
There’s really nothing more comfortable and heartwarming than indulging in a viewing of The Citadel’s annual production of A Christmas Carol. With exuberant performances from everyone from the lead to the ensemble in each and every scene, it’s truly a magical and mind-expanding 145 minutes.
A delight to families young and old everywhere, the well-known tale is a familiar one: Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserable, miserly old money-lending businessman, rebuffs any and all notions of holiday cheer and treats everyone around him, from the poor children singing in the streets at night to his clerk, the underpaid and overworked Bob Cratchit, to his nephew — his only remaining family — like mere irritations rather than people worthy of kindness and compassion. Having lost his only friend and business partner, Jacob Marley, seven years ago, his only concerns are his work and his money. He refuses to contribute to generous endeavours like donating to organizations trying to provide for the less fortunate. On Christmas Eve, the same night Marley died so many seasons ago, he is visited by Marley’s ghost, who bears a grim message: Scrooge must change his ways, or suffer a tortuous fate. Three Christmas spirits and many apparitions later, Scrooge has learned a valuable lesson about empathy, the power of and to change, and the value of the holiday season.
This year’s iteration of the classic play, adapted from Charles Dickens’s 1843 novella by Tom Wood, saw a change of direction (pun intended) with perennial director Bob Baker passing the torch to his longtime associate, Wayne Paquette. The cast and crew delighted the enraptured audience with elaborate era costumes and mannerisms, and the few mishaps — like the accidental swinging open of a panel that was meant to stay closed upon Bob Cratchit’s entrance — were moved past so swiftly and professionally that they were hardly noticeable. Effects like falling “snow” from the rafters and fluid scene transitions added to the indoor magic, and even after having seen the show multiple times before, there were still many unique, eye-catching details that had gone previously unnoticed. Turns out the position of the viewer’s seat around the semi-circular stage — this time, almost in the dead centre of the theatre — makes for an entirely different experience.
Finally, make sure to save some spare change for the end if you attend the show for yourself: each performance of A Christmas Carol ends with an announcement to all about the unfortunate realities of the hardships of the holiday season for some, and at the conclusion of the show cast members line the stairs and exits with receptacles for donations to the Edmonton Food Bank. It’s a reminder of the parallels between the message and themes of the play and the living out of the idea to treat one’s fellow humankind, well, kindly — a self-aware gesture that has led to theatregoers raising over a million dollars for charitable causes over the show’s eighteen seasons.