KPBS AIRDATE: December 19, 2003
Holiday traditions come in all shapes and sizes. But if you like yours with harmonious singing and an uplifting message, I’ve got some sugar-coated theatrical Christmas confections with your name on ’em. Both have been around for more than two decades, in various incarnations, and this year’s productions are especially tasty.
The San Diego Repertory Theatre has been cooking up “A Christmas Carol” for 28 years, in widely varied interpretations and adaptations by Rep co-founder D.W. Jacobs. This year, with Todd Salovey directing again, we’re back in a traditional Victorian setting, with some twists. For one thing, the narrator is Charles Dickens, a role deliciously inhabited by Jonathan McMurtry. Tiny Tim is a tiny little 6 year-old dynamo, Bibi Valderrama. And the three famous Ghosts — Past, Present and Future — take some fascinating forms. Many “Carol” favorites are back — from Shana Wride, Linda Libby, Jennifer Shelton and Paul James Kruse to more recent additions like Doug Roberts and Robert Townsend. Javier Velasco choreographs again, the very Dickensian sets are by Giulio Perrone and the inspiring original music and vocal arrangements are by Steve Gunderson. Onstage at the Rep for the first time is Broadway veteran Peter van Norden, who whisks us along with him on Scrooge’s harrowing journey, from monstrous miser to fearful regretter to giddy receiver of wisdom, revelation … and the spirit of Christmas. It’s a thrilling ride when it’s done right, and it is — touching, moving, downright elevating.
At the same time, in Coronado, which is beautifully bedecked for the season, Lamb’s Players Theatre is presenting its 23rd Festival of Christmas, with one of the 12 plays penned by Lamb’s associate artistic director Kerry Meads. This is the most popular, and deservedly so. Third time’s a charm for this warm, witty creation; thanks to the exceptional and unpredictable musical arrangements of Vanda Eggington, the production makes a joyful noise. The setting is TV Studio 22 in New York, 1952…. A blizzard detains all the guest performers on a Pop-Song show — except for the Harmonaires, geeky winners of the Amateur Talent Search, who’ve just arrived from Dubuque. Well, you can probably guess most of the rest, but it’s a fun ride getting there, especially with the comic performances, precise timing and gorgeous singing of a stellar ensemble cast. Director Deborah Gilmour Smyth keeps the pace lively; despite a few temptations, everyone who belongs together winds up together, and the audience goes home humming carols and feeling fine. So, deck the halls with theater tickets… You can buy Giftix from the Performing Arts League, which are good at more than 60 performing arts venues around the county… Have a dramatic holiday!
©2003 Patté Productions Inc.