Theater Review: A Christmas Carol‘s Kalita Humphreys Swan Song

Nostalgia abounds as the holiday season approaches and we begin to engage in its twinkly traditions. For many of us, this means attending Dallas Theater Center’s annual production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, and since 2005, that means seeing the play in the historic Kalita Humphreys Theater. To add even more layers to the wistfulness for things past, DTC is retiring its longtime adaptation by Richard Hellesen (original music by David de Berry) in favor of a new production that will be tailor-made for the Wyly in 2013.

DTC Associate Artistic Director Joel Ferrell directs and choreographs (his seventh time), and the full-throated passion with which he imbues Scrooge’s tale shows that he wants to go out with a loud bang. He has transformed his fantastic cast and crew into a well-oiled machine of Christmas delight.

The darkened stage (Bob Lavallee’s scenic design is dependably awesome and efficient) is shot through with a loud wail from the Ghost of Jacob Marley (Brian Gonzales at his tormented best) that sets the tone for the play’s pronounced volume and sprig of edginess. My neighbor kept covering her ears; however, I overheard many patrons at intermission claim that the elevated sound was their favorite part of this production. In my opinion, Lindy Heath Cabe and Curtis Craig’s music direction and sound design are right on and appropriate to what is asked for, be it festive or spooky.

Many DTC favorites make their return to Carol, and chief of these is the much-beloved Chamblee Ferguson in his reprisal of the titular role. Ferguson makes for an oddly youthful, yet truly frightening Scrooge at first. It takes one aback when he barks and grouses, particularly the little ones in the audience. However, his charming goofiness keeps peeking through the bluster, and we soon see more of the elastic, comedic elements in his performance, and a feverish mania that works quite well after Ebenezer has his final epiphany.

The divine Liz Mikel (Ghost of Christmas Present/Mrs. Fezziwig/Charwoman) is at her expressive best. A gasp of delight goes up anytime she speaks or sings, usually accompanying spontaneous bursts of applause. Steven Michael Walters as Bob Cratchit is a subtle treasure of inward acting. Walters is a large man, and the way he shrinks into the gentle, nebbish Cratchit is a wonder to behold.

Photo Credit: Karen Almond