Ryan Colbert (Fred) and J.C. Cutler (Ebenezer Scrooge) at work. Photo by Dan Norman.
The Guthrie’s 2016 production of A Christmas Carol will not surprise you if you’ve seen it in recent years. J.C. Cutler is still excellent as Scrooge, Mathew LeFebvre’s costumes are still pretty dandy, and the music is just as nice as you recall. There are a couple fresher faces that are now a bit more familiar (Hello, Tyler Michaels! Pity there’s no wire work for you in this show.), sure, and maybe some of those carolers aren’t the ones you remember, but it still tugs at the heart strings. Is that a tear in my eye? Oh, for cute!
For those not familiar with this seasonal favorite, Charles Dickens wrote a novel about a despicable miser who managed to insult– oh, sorry, wrong story. This is the one with a grumpy miser, Tiny Tim and the figgy pudding, questions of work-life balance, near-frantic worries of financial insecurity, and the age-old work vs. romance bind. If we leave out the first two items, it sounds a lot like a play for Millennials, which in this case is to say that it hits a lot of universal themes very well.
Like settling into The Sound of Music or another familiar classic, A Christmas Carol is not the sort of show that you go to expecting surprises. You won’t find any here, except perhaps being surprised that you’re not actually that jaded and it does warm your heart a bit. Joe Chvala returns as the director of this adaptation by Crispin Whittell, which guest-stars a cool but familiar transforming and rotating set by Christopher Akerlind. (Sidenote: If there’s ever a reminder that London’s winter is paltry, it’s the massive panel of windows in Scrooge’s roof. Looks great, freezes you faster than the Polar Plunge.) It’s slick, it has some nice touches, and it’s as familiar as Grandma’s hot dish.
Speaking of hot dish, it’s time for Thanksgiving dinner planning. Could you get that grape salad out of here, please? Let’s have some real Minnesotan food to chase that old favorite Carol. Did you know it turned 42 this year?