By Jessica Neu
Adapted and directed by Robert Hockenberry, the Pittsburgh Savoyards celebrate their 85th season with the beloved holiday classic Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Seeing this production is akin to listening to a wonderful acoustic version of your favorite album. The story is well-known, and this charming community theater cannot compare in size, scope, or budget to a larger production of the same show. However, audiences will still be delighted with remarkable talent, effective use of space, and an adapted script that showcases a rich psychological aspect of the show that serves to further nuance the iconic characters.
The show begins with Christmas carolers singing in beautiful harmony. Then a soldier (Randy Kerr, Theo Sebastian December 9) begins to tell his young son (Carson Gallagher) the story of Ebenezer Scrooge (Franklin Mosley: Nov. 25-27, December 3, December 9, Jonah Winter: Dec. 2, 4, 8, 10) and his fateful Christmas Eve. Mosley delivers every aspect of Scrooge that audiences expect. He is unscrupulous and relentless but pensive, remorseful, and ultimately endearing. As he works through his experiences with former business partner Jacob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, and the Cratchit family, audiences are exposed to details of Scrooge’s life that are not projected in other productions. We learn the intrinsic motivations behind Scrooge’s greed which has led to deep-seated loneliness and ultimately regret. These details make Scrooge more relatable and make his transformation at the end of the show cathartic and dynamic. With insightful opportunities, the ghosts guide Scrooge through grappling with the absurdity of love, having relations and not friends, and ultimately the consequences of losing all aspirations until only greed remains.
Also delivering a noteworthy performance is Andy Hickly (Nov. 25-27, December 3, December 9) in the role of Jacob Marley. The use of this character is unique, and his advice toward Scrooge that in death, we must walk amongst our fellow man and are condemned to witness the joys we might have shared is both thought-provoking and emotionally provocative. This mature telling of a beloved classic challenges audiences to consider how everyone struggles with the “what ifs” of the past. However, above all other times of the year, Christmas offers an opportunity to reconcile these past decisions because “Christmas is when the veil between the worlds of living and deceased are the thinnest.”
The clever use of space features quiet set changes that happen behind the main curtain, which closes for each set strike. Downstage blocking puts characters in front of the curtain to continue telling the story while the next scene is set. However, the curtain malfunctioned at the beginning of the second act. Watching each performer adjust to the obstruction on stage and still strike each scene, which was now visible to the audience, was simply outstanding. The professionalism of each actor, young and old, was palpable and their pride in this show was apparent.
Seeing a nearly full house at this small community theater was refreshing. The spirit of the holiday season will surely live on past the show’s final curtain on December 10. The joy these performers bring to the stage reminds us that Christmas brings out our care for one another and a wonderment that can transform even the coldest heart.
Preformances run through December 10th, for more information and tickets visit: https://www.pittsburghsavoyards.org/wordpress/christmas-carol-2022/