Most people know the plot of A Christmas Carol even if they have never read Charles Dickens, thanks to movies, spinoffs and, this month at the Alley Theatre, a reimagined version of the classic play.
The Alley’s latest production (and its recent renovation) brings a new energy to classic holiday tale. Director James Black, who played Scrooge in past seasons, shared that changing from actor to director had its own challenges, but Jeffrey Bean, who plays the iconic humbug this year, is phenomenal in the role.
Bean is downright scary in his spiritless demeanor at the beginning of the play, but as he understands his shortcomings, he brings comic relief into what is, on many levels, a dark play. He is sheer perfection as the cold-hearted yet not hopeless antihero. And let’s face it: What would A Christmas Carol be without an excellent Scrooge?
From Scrooge’s bedroom to the streets of Victorian England to the modest home of Bob Cratchit, the stage captures the magic of the story. Along with John Gromada’s original music, the sound effects, ranging from the natural (rain) to the supernatural (ghosts, anyone?), Dickens’s story comes to life with the sounds and sights of ghosts from Christmases past, present and future (Melissa Pritchett, David Rainey, and Shawn Marvel).
The ensemble cast is excellent, with John Feltch in drag as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper, stealing the show. He also plays Jacob Marley, so he can both camp it up and creep you out. His comedic timing is impeccable, and he has some of the most entertaining moments of the play, with great bookend performances for the beginning and end of the show.
If you need a little Christmas right this very minute, this classic play is the natural choice. “Its themes resonate stronger with each holiday season. It’s a rare thing to have this kind of continuity in the theater,” says Black. “Luckily, it’s a story that grows with you, that reveals a bit more each passing year.”
Thru Dec 29. Alley Theatre, 615 Texas Ave. 713-220-5700. alleytheatre.org