Theatre Review

‘A Christmas Carol’ from the ’50s at Trinity


We’ve seen every Christmas Carol done at Trinity Rep, including the years they produced two with different casts, but this is the first time we have seen it set in the ’50s.

I must admit that I had my doubts, especially when I saw a stark stage with what looked like three air shafts and rod iron walkways. And then it starts as if they were doing a radio show, and D’Arcy Dersham sings, “What are you doing New Year’s Eve.”

What the heck is going on?

Wait a minute. There’s Marley’s ghost (Richard Donelly) rising from the depths and dying while Scrooge (the magnificent Brian McEleney) is counting his money.

And there’s Bob Cratchit trying to tune his portable radio and plug in an electric heater in the orchestra pit while Scrooge winds up his baseball bat.

Now I know we’re in the ’50s, and it is all coming together as the spoken words are nearly the same as all past versions. I’ve forgotten about London in the 1800s and accepted the fact that we are back to an era I remember so well.

So it makes sense that Mrs. Partlet (Barbara Meek) is bringing her boss a TV dinner and not gruel. And young Scrooge works in a shoe factory. And the men wear suits and ties. And Scrooge is bald. And what better song for the big production number than “Jingle Bell Rock.”

Once you get into the play, you’ll love what director Christopher Windom has done with it, without changing the true meaning of the three ghosts and the redemption of the crotchety old man.

It is a strong cast, with Stephen Thorne playing a poignant Bob Cratchit, Janice Duclos, Rickey Oliver and Richard Donelly representing the three ghosts and Fred Sullivan Jr. livening things up with his interpretation of Fezziwig and Old Joe, as only Sullivan can do.

The cast is too large to mention, but rest assured that they all are great, including a wonderful array of children who often upstage the veteran actors.

Once again, it is Brian McEleney who makes the Christmas Carol sing out the message of caring for all of mankind. He is the old man you will love to hate as he chases little children, shouts at well-meaning money raisers and treats his nephew badly. His redemption is not only realistic, it is downright hysterical. His cartwheel and dancing drew loud applause from the audience, not only because it was so graceful but also because it was unexpected.

Don’t get hung up by the fact that the setting and era is completely non-traditional. Trinity has shown us that the spirit of Christmas and the message of “A Christmas Carol” is the same, regardless of time and place.

“A Christmas Carol” is at Trinity Repertory Company through Dec. 30. Tickets are scarce, so call right away (351-4242).


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