It may not be the production for the Dickensian purist, but that is half the charm of Kevin Moriarty’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol, now in its third year at the Dallas Theater Center. This year’s production is the first helmed by a female director, Brierly Resident Acting Company member Christie Vela, and it takes Charles Dickens’ classic story and deepens its emotional impact through some clever tweaks and turns, fantastic staging, and beautifully choreographed musical numbers.
Hassan El-Amin is having one hell of a 2015, fresh off his brilliant turn as Martin Luther King in DTC’s production of The Mountaintop, and he is no less wonderful here as the redeemed taskmaster, Ebenezer Scrooge. His Scrooge is imposing, immovable, and hard-hearted from the start, turning almost child-like in both his stubbornness and wonder as the ghosts of past, present, and future visit him the night before Christmas. Once the transformation of his heart is complete, the transformation of El-Amin has just begun. He pours himself into the role, whether booming down orders from his perch above the factory floor, reaching out to touch a memory from Scrooge’s past, or dancing on Christmas morning.
He is supported by an excellent cast, with many actors pulling double duty in various roles. Truly, something nice could be said about each and every performer, but there are some definite standouts. Alex Organ is satisfyingly scary as the ghost of Scrooge’s former partner, Jacob Marley. His convincing physicality and creepy makeup combine with hair-raising sound and stage effects to make his warnings seem all the more ominous.
Brandon Potter’s quick-witted, open-hearted Fred keeps audiences chuckling with his witty delivery, while Cameron Cobb’s sweet, easygoing Bob Cratchit is warm and natural with the child actors who play his family. Dorcas Leung sparkles and flies high above the stage, trilling and giggling her way through the motions of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Chamblee Ferguson’s joyous, affectionate Mr. Fezziwig pairs perfectly with Liz Mikel’s sharp comedic timing as Mrs. Fezziwig, and Mikel’s rich, warm voice is used to its full effect in more than one musical arrangement, accompanied at times by a single, plaintive guitar.
The theater’s transformation is simple yet dynamic, using the Wyly’s adaptable space to its advantage. The factory serves as the main backdrop, but flexible set pieces, like the freight elevator that transforms into Scrooge’s curtained bed, allow the cold warehouse to melt into the background when it becomes the setting of a house party or a childhood memory.
Even the biggest Scrooge can’t hear Tiny Tim’s sweet little voice say, “God bless us, everyone,” while gentle snow falls throughout the theater, without feeling a tug at the heartstrings. DTC’s A Christmas Carol serves up the spirit of the season with genuine heart. The finely tuned direction, an immensely talented cast, and creative set make it a production to see this holiday.