Trinity Rep puts another fresh spin on classic
PROVIDENCE — Trinity Repertory Company’s production of “A Christmas Carol” is different every year, but this year’s iteration is so very different – in wonderful ways.
For starters, it’s performed in the round, which draws audiences into the action. The set is minimal but those few pieces and props are put to creative use.
There are interesting new characterizations: Scrooge’s nephew Fred now is a niece, Frederika; the housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, now is a Mr. There is different music, lots of show-stopping dancing, and a Scrooge who joins the ranks of the all-time best – as does the entire production.
The vision starts with director Kate Bergstrom, a graduate of the Brown/Trinity Rep master’s degree program who has directed literally from coast to coast. Here she re-imagines the telling of Charles Dickens’ familiar tale and even changes a few scenes; Scrooge now consumes his Christmas Eve gruel sitting alone in a tavern instead of at home. However, Bergstrom never loses sight of the emotions or message.
She is supported by an inspired creative team, including choreographer Taavon Gamble, who creates a memorably joyous and, no doubt, demanding dance scene for the Fezziwig Christmas party. Especially effective sound effects are credited to designers who work as Broken Chord. When the door to Scrooge’s office opens, for example, street sounds can be heard. Ominous sounds presage the Ghosts’ visits.
Music director Michael Rice makes the music a pleasure of its own, whether drawn from Richard Cumming’s original score or from other sources, such as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” which figures briefly and appropriately in one scene.
A multi-ethnic cast and those changed genders give the show a contemporary feel, and it’s welcome. The cast comprises Trinity Company members, Brown/Trinity Rep
MFA students, and local children.
Jude Sandy is a stand-out Scrooge, connecting his ill will to his own disappointments and his redemption clearly to his experiences with the Ghosts. Sandy plays both sides with honest emotion but also great fun.
Every character has noteworthy moments, some with comic touches, like Ricardy
Fabre’s Bob Cratchit, irrepressible even under Scrooge’s evil eye; Haley Schwartz as a determined Frederika; Michael Rosas and the inimitable Stephen Thorne as Solicitors for the Poor who are rebuffed by Scrooge. Rachael Warren raises the bar on portrayals of the Ghost of Christmas Present, being both hilarious and serious.
This year’s ensemble of children is appealing – and talented. Together, they sing and join in the spectacular dance numbers but also create individual personalities. Two casts, Red and Green, alternate performances, and on opening night, the Red Cast’s Karyss Williams was a scene-stealer as the “Turkey Gal,” the youngster a reformed Scrooge recruits to buy a humongous turkey for the Cratchit family.
As many fresh and different aspects as there are in Trinity’s 42nd incarnation of “A Christmas Carol,” they fit well with tradition. The production is warm when it should be, eerie in all the right spots, and unfailingly entertaining.
Performances of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” continue through Dec. 29 at Trinity Rep, 201 Washington St. Tickets start at $27 and are available online or by contacting the box office at 401-3514242.
The cast of A Christmas Carol. By Charles Dickens, with original music by Richard Cumming. Directed by Kate Bergstrom. Set design by Patrick Lynch, costume design by Olivera Gajic, lighting design by Barbara Samuels, and sound design by Broken Chord.