“A Christmas Carol” at the Sacramento Theatre Company

Add The Sacramento Theatre Company to your list of holiday activities this year: “A Christmas Carol,” which runs through Dec. 24 at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, captures the magic and joy of Christmas. The Dickens classic, adapted by Richard Hellesen, is the most consistently produced Christmas show that STC runs and has been a part of the holiday programs on and off for the last 24 years.

For more than150 years Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has been a classically loved and widely acclaimed story of the evolution of a Ebenezer Scrooge from a selfish and sour man to a generous and hospitable fellow. This heart-warming tale of redemption is a Christmas production that has reminded audiences for over a century of the true meaning of life.

On Sunday, the theater was filled with families, students, and theater-goers of all ages. The actors captivated the audience with an outstanding performance, especially by Matt K. Miller, who played Scrooge. His performance captured the splendor of the classic tale of a man rediscovering his Christmas spirit.

The stage effects really transported the audience to a different time and place. Simulated fog poured into the theater to create the dark mystical feel of London and actors dressed in elaborate period costumes that included the Ghost of Jacob Marley in chains and rags and wealthy women in beautiful silk gowns.

The stage was simple with selective yet dramatic props. Many key elements rolled on and off stage throughout the show while an over sized clock remained center stage the entire show. Scrooge’s four-post bed and fireplace, a desk in his office and other key elements diversify the space to show Scrooge as he travels through time.

Through music and dance this performance stands out among the many renditions of “A Christmas Carol.” The uplifting songs in the first act juxtapose against the dark and sinister attitude of Scrooge and help reveal the extent of his rottenness to the audience.

Music director, Sam Schieber, and choreographer, Jerald Bolden are both new additions to this year’s production team. Music that was adapted and arranged by David De Berry uses Christmas carols and songs from the 1800s to accompany the story of Scrooge rediscovering his Christmas spirit.

By the end of act two Scrooge’s outlook on life is in alignment with the blissful songs that the characters sing and bring the story full circle as he joins in singing with the community.

Matt K. Miller makes a wildly captivating Scrooge. Everything from his facial expressions to his posture and tone of voice evolve as Scrooge realizes the true meaning of life by the visiting Christmas ghosts.

Miller does a wonderful job portraying an eerie gloom and distaste for Christmas in the opening scenes of the play. As Scrooge is taken by the Ghost of Christmas Past, Sydney Christoffersen and Bella Bagatelos who both play the part, the thick layers of his hardened heart seamlessly peel back when Miller starts snapping his fingers and bouncing to the songs of his youth and recognizing the faces of old friends.

Miller has performed in many productions at the Sacramento Theatre Company and this is his fourth time playing Scrooge for the company’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”

“Miller has always been excellent,” said season-ticket-holder, Marion Silva. “He does a really great job playing Scrooge. He has really gotten into this character.”

Jim Lane plays an especially creepy and tortured version of The Ghost of Jacob Marley. He is dressed in rags and covered in chains when he emerges from a dark and foggy clock in Scrooge’s home. His voice echoes throughout the speakers of the theater, creating a haunting mood. Lane delivers a chilling performance.

Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, played by Jerry Lee, brings a lightness to the dark and mystical nature of the opening scenes of the show. He portrays a jovial and lighthearted man who continuously looks for the good in Scrooge despite his unenlightened and stingy perspective of the world.

Barry Hubbard and Jackie Vanderbeck make a marvelous team playing Mr. and Mrs.Cratchit. Mr. Bob Cratchit is employed by Scrooge and always defends him, despite Scrooge’s cruel attitude toward him. Vanderbeck portrays Mrs.Cratchit as a sound minded woman who looks out first and foremost for the well being of her family.

Hubbard and Vanderbeck evoke sympathy and compassion in the audience as Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit struggle to make ends meet in the midst of their youngest son suffering from medical problems, not having enough money to help him.

The redemption of Scrooge is climactic when he finally gives BobCratchit a raise in order to help save the life of his son, Tiny Tim, played by Zac Ballard.

Zac Ballard is adorable and lovable as Tiny Tim. He does an excellent job playing a crippled boy with leg braces by moving his legs with labor and looking to family members for help moving about the stage. He wins the audience over with his innocent and angelic attitude.

The props and set design are minimal but dramatic. A large grandfather clock is in the center of the stage throughout the play, symbolic of the looming presence of time slipping away from Scrooge. The clock is so oversized that it almost appears to be a looking down on Scrooge like a God. In addition to the clock, a large four-post bed rolls on and off stage to signify Scrooge leaving and returning to his sleeping quarters as he visits his past, present and future.

“The set seems true to London back then, covered in soot and fog. It looks musty and smelly and cold,” said Carolyn Schilling, season ticket holder.

The use of heavy fog and varying lighting techniques create a dark mysterious world that Scrooge lives in.

The Ghost of Christmas Future is the most disturbing of all of the ghosts, dressed similarly to the grim reaper.

Rather than speaking, the ghost points his long bony fingers to direct Scrooge’s attention to what his future will look like if he doesn’t change. The Ghost of Christmas Future appears out of a trap door beneath the stage and slowly glides up to Scrooge’s level while fog pours out around him and lights flash dramatically.

This is just one of the many effective design elements that lighting designer, Victor En Yu Tan, scenic designer, John Klonowski, and additional lighting design and effects by Jordan Burkholder create in the show.

Costume designers, B. Modern and Jessica Minnihan, created appropriate period costumes that range from rags to the gowns of the wealthy.

All of the elements of the production come together to make the Sacramento Theatre Company’s “A Christmas Carol” a classic holiday thrill that reminds audiences of the true meaning of life while providing a marvelous show for all ages to enjoy.

This season The Sacramento Theatre Company is inviting local choirs to sing Christmas carols outside the theater before the show starts. Choirs that are interested in singing may contact the theater.

Show times are as follows:

Wednesday 7 p.m.
Thursday 12:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Friday 7 p.m.
Saturday 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.
Sunday 2 p.m.

Tickets prices are as follows:
General $40
Children (Age 4-12) $20
Discounts are available for seniors, students and groups.

To purchase tickets, visit the box office website here.

For more information about “A Christmas Carol” visit the Sacramento Theatre Company website here.

All Photos: Barry Wisdom

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