There is often a sense of magic that floats in the air in the season of Christmas--a sense of spark. People often call it “Christmas magic.” The Guthrie’s A Christmas Carol Director Lauren Keating gave me Christmas magic when she gave me the gift of the globe. From the top of the show where all you see is a boy with a globe singing with a spotlight, to the moment when a much older Scrooge holds the globe again at the end of the play, my eyes were filled with tears bringing it full circle. Grab your Kleenex folks--Christmas magic is in the air. Keating does a brilliant job of weaving in and out this idea of the globe and what it symbolizes to Scrooge; this is a powerful symbolic message of what one gift could mean to a child.
This marks the 45th consecutive year that the Guthrie has put on A Christmas Carol. It is pretty impressive for a theater company to put on versions of the same play for so many years and continue to get so many people to come back year after year. Many people in the Twin Cities have this production as one of their holiday traditions and it certainly is one of mine: I remember attending the A Christmas Carol when I was first around the age of ten and I have attended every year or so since. While the story may be the same Dickens’ classic, every year the theme or emphasis is different; I love seeing what the director chooses to bring out.
As I hunkered down in my seat with the rest of the crowd, anxious to see what A Christmas Carol would bring, my heart was filled with anticipation. In the Guthrie’s press release, Keating describes as her goal is to bring out the themes of “hope, empathy, community, and transformation” embedded in this classic story. Keating goes on to say, “If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s that we need more love in the world.” I couldn't agree more. This theme of love was brought out in the characters of Scrooge, Marley, Fred, Bob, and Mr. Fezziwig. It seemed every character had a message to someone (whether it was Scrooge, to the audience, or to someone else).
While many past A Christmas Carol goers may have been disappointed to know that there were many scenes that were cut or deleted, this years’ artistic team did this strategic cutting to place the emphasis on who Scrooge is and to bring out his character. Particular kudos to actors Eric Sharp as Fred, John Catron as Jacob Marley, Maya Lagerstam as Belle and Jon Andrew Hegge as Mr. Fezziwig as these individuals were particularly strong. The cast of twelve kids are also incredible. Not only do they have to be on and off stage many, many times, but several children have large singing and dancing roles as well.
Nathaniel Fuller as Scrooge was, of course, wonderful in his ability to transform from an old, stingy, greedy man to someone full of love that wanted to give joyfully. Each of his lines were crisp and clear. He made his character believable and made it look effortless.
The artistic team really used a creative job in developing modern and new elements to this adaptation of the script. It made it speak for today, whereas I past renditions of A Christmas Carol focused on a more historically accurate portrayal. In this version, we see Scrooge as though Scrooge is one of us. This provides us with the opportunity to take a deep look into our own lives and consider, “are we a Scrooge?”. Another way this team has chosen to make this story more relevant to today is by having a multicultural cast. They also choose to have a gay couple kiss during the Fezziwig party. It brought a sense of unity, a sense that we are in this century, a sense of today.
This particular version brings a sense of warmth, hope, and empathy rather than darkness and despair. Keating brings out love and hope that we can share throughout this holiday season. Just like the ghosts came out like clockwork, so did the artistic and creative team. This is a production that will go down in history, especially for the theming of the globe. The way that they passed the globe was effortlessly and the way that they brought it out in various scenes was magical. Just as I wasn’t expecting it, there it was again. It was a genius theme that I have never seen done before.
There is power in the idea of giving and receiving of a gift. Scrooge didn’t get many gifts which is why he turned out the way he did. What is one gift you received that you have kept that has been special to you and why? As we enter this holiday season, let’s remember that gift. As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, everyone.” This version of A Christmas Carol really moved me and I have seen this show MANY times. I can tell you though, I will be back for sure. Come on out to the Guthrie Theater’s A Christmas Carol and let the magic of Christmas sweep you away.