A CHRISTMAS CAROL by Charles Dickens (Soulpepper). At the Young Centre for the Performing Arts (55 Mill). To December 23. $29-$54, stu $25, limited rush $5-$18. 416-866-8666, www.soulpepper.ca. See Continuing, page 82. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
p>If, as I do, you liken a Christmas Carol to the annual flu shot that you might skip this year, toss your humbuggish notions aside and check out Soulpepper's magnificent, spirit-raising production.
In adapting the Charles Dickens classic for the stage, Michael Shamata, who also directs, stays faithful to the original story of Ebenezer Scrooge confronting the ghosts of his past, present and future, but also includes many surprises.
One surprise is how Timothy French's choreography imbues the production with dreamlike fluidity. His ballet-dancing Harlequins (Daniel Chapman-Smith and Jaclyn A. Smith) construct, deconstruct and propel the sets to keep the story constantly moving.
The imaginative design elements also delight. Moments into the play, a flowing white sheet whooshes ghostlike into the rafters, making the audience gasp with glee. Lighting designer Alan Brodie and ghost costume designer Julie Fox use projections, a trap door, a tall ladder on wheels and lighted hats to bring 1843 London to life.
It's no surprise to see beautifully acted performances from Soulpepper. Joseph Ziegler slowly and credibly melts Scrooge's hardened heart. Oliver Dennis's humble Bob Cratchit makes you long to hug him and hand him your next paycheque. And John Jarvis's Christmas ghosts scare and excite, although his Jacob Marley sometimes sounds like he has marbles in his mouth.
The whole cast convincingly plays multiple roles, with Kevin Bundy and Maggie Huculak as particularly delightful Fezziwigs. But because Dennis so completely embodies Cratchit, an extra actor should have taken on his other roles.
Regardless, this Christmas present deserves many holiday cheers.