It may seem like there are a hundred A
CHRISTMAS CAROLs out there to choose from but once in a while there will be a
different take on the classic. A number of years back, Charles Dickens’ great-great
nephew read the story for audiences here in Boston, just as his famous great uncle had
over a century before. Now you have a solo performance by Neil McGarry (for Bay
Colony Shakespeare through Dec. 23rd) to add to the list of
extraordinary productions of the beloved ghost story.
Lest you think McGarry recites the text, I’m
happy to tell you it’s fully produced, dancing and all. The trick is that
McGarry portrays everyone, even so far as helping himself on with a coat as
someone else! He slips seamlessly from one character to the next—and you are
not confused even for a moment in his remarkable tour de force.
If anything, Dickens’ gorgeous language is
enhanced because of the singular focus. In director Ross MacDonald’s distinct
version of the tale, your attention is drawn to Dickens’ rich imagery, like his
hot, “singing pudding” or his stirring cry for justice for those who die alone,
“unwashed, unwept and uncared for.” (You lose some of those descriptive gems in
large scale production.)
McGarry’s “jolly giant” of a Ghost of
Christmas Present seems to fill the stage with his reverberating laugh. His
Fezziwig whirls about the auditorium in joyous spasms of dance and his Scrooge
transforms himself with happy abandon.
Sound effects play a large role in the Bay
Colony production. Erica Simpson supplies the bells, gongs and eerie echoes
which enlarge a scene, stirring our imagination to conjure a “glimpse of the
invisible world.” Indeed, I saw the ghosts heavy with chains, hovering about
Marley in my mind’s eye…and I saw the “ubiquitous young Crachits” running under
foot as McGarry held Tiny Tim on his shoulder.
McGarry and MacDonald have achieved a magical
alchemy which absorbs and involves the audience and holds them spellbound.
Small children sat transfixed without moving. Large children, otherwise known
as adults, smiled with grins to rival Mrs. Fezziwig’s “vast substantial smile.”
In short, you must see their CHRISTMAS CAROL, as the Ghost of Christmas Past
informs Scrooge, for your very welfare!