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Review of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater, 2017

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Quote of the Day: “A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie is far and away the best play I’ve ever seen,” my boy Charlie (age 17) on our drive home after watching A Christmas Carol. We have made this play somewhat of a holiday tradition since I started writing reviews, about six years ago. It was the first show I brought my boys to, when they were all still living at home. We’ve seen it a few times, but hadn’t been in the past two years. The current production has a new director, a new (to us) Scrooge, and a few other changes in cast and presentation. We still had moments of surprise as well as experiencing the story again, in a new way.

Of course, A Christmas Carol is a classic story that we know and love. Each performance has it’s own personality, however, even within the same season with the same performers. Each of the actors give a little of themselves to the roles. The director has great influence on what parts of the story she wants to highlight. I don’t want to give too much away, but we were surprised at a few of the changes, especially where the various ghosts appear, and missed some of the humor in past performances. Also, I think they trimmed the show up a little and cut some of the dancing (I kind of missed the dancing), but it was still highly entertaining, and they found ways to bring the actors into the audience, surrounding us with song and sound at times. It’s like re-watching your favorite movies. You revisit the experience because you love the story and the characters. 

Nat Fuller as Scrooge and the cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Nat Fuller as Scrooge and the cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Nat Fuller is a serious and cold Scrooge. He seems to brush all the people and their tedious needs aside, like shooing flies off his beef stew. When Marley (John Catron) appears, he is clearly shaken, but tries to dismiss him by saying he might be just “an undigested bit of beef.” He looks at him and says, “There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!” As you know, it takes visits from Ghosts of Christmas Past (Kendall A. Thompson), Christmas Present (Ansa Akyea), and the terrifying Christmas Future (Eric Sharp) to transform the miserly old man into a charitable human being. (The addition of these ghostly puppets, surrounding Marley, and swooping about during the graveyard scenes, was a wonderful and eerie touch. The lighting, sound and music created both the haunting atmosphere and joyful celebrations.)

John Catron (Jacob Marley) and Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

John Catron (Jacob Marley) and Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Jay Albright is the jolly and adorable Mr. Fezziwig. Amiee K. Bryant plays his energetic wife. His three bubbly daughters are played by Katie Bradley, Emily Gunyou Halaas, and Summer Hagen. Their party scene always makes us smile.

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

The cast of the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Kris L. Nelson plays an endearing Bob Cratchit. Meghan Kreidler is Mrs. Cratchit with a little edge, and the kids all do a great job in these classic roles. I felt myself focusing more on them this time, their plight of poverty and scratching along, and, of course, the suffering of Tiny Tim. 

It’s fun when we recognize familiar faces in these roles, and also to see some new ones. This year, the role of Scrooge will be played by Charity Jones (playing Old Joe in other performances) for select performances. I’d love to see her perform this iconic role. From the Guthrie’s program guide: Scrooge is just a great role. That we would even think about gendering and limiting the casting of that role is strange. 

Emily Gunyou Halaas (Mrs. Dilber), Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Charity Jones (Old Joe) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Emily Gunyou Halaas (Mrs. Dilber), Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) and Charity Jones (Old Joe) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Lauren Keating directed this year’s production of A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater. I’m with her when she writes in the program guide: The magic of “Carol” is something I’ve always appreciated. I feel like it bonds families, creates memories and makes community. If my boy Charlie’s comment following our third, or fourth, viewing of this show is an indicator, then YES, this is an experience that families can enjoy and tuck those memories in their heart and have Christmas all year long. Thank you, creators at the Guthrie Theater, for giving us this gift.

Kris L. Nelson (Bob Cratchit, Donald), Sophie Jones (Tiny Tim) and Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

Kris L. Nelson (Bob Cratchit, Donald), Sophie Jones (Tiny Tim) and Nathaniel Fuller (Ebenezer Scrooge) in the Guthrie Theater’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, adapted by Crispin Whittell, directed by Lauren Keating. Scenic design by Walt Spangler, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind. November 14 – December 30, 2017 on the Wurtele Thrust Stage at the Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis. Photo by Dan Norman.

You can see A Christmas Carol at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis, MN through December 30, 2017. 

I have one note about our experience at the Guthrie this holiday season. We enjoyed the show, immensely, and our food at the 5th Level Cafe’. We might have been too early in the season, but there was serious lack of photo opp spots in either the entrance or the lobbies.  A couple fun areas decorated for the Dickens show, or Blithe Spirit, playing on the Proscenium stage, would be nice. And, what happened to the billboard style signs on the way to the box office?

Go. Create. Inspire!

Journaling Prompt: What are some holiday traditions you enjoy? (Not necessarily Christmas, any traditions, or holidays, can make good memories.)

  1. How wonderful to have surprises in a story we can almost recite! I loved the shots of the scenes. It looks as if they had a great set designer, too.

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