A Christmas Carol
Adapted for the stage by Tom Wood
Citadel Theatre, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Nov. 26, 2016 to Dec. 23, 2016

Review by GRAHAM HICKS,  Hicksbiz.com

Tickets at www.citadeltheatre.com,  $25 to $110

Parking:  Downtown Library Parkade, $10 evening

  

Nobody does old/miserable/crotchety/irritated in Canadian theatre better than Tom Wood.

So what a treat to have Wood back, after a seven-year absence, to play Scrooge in the 17th annual production of A Christmas Carol at the Citadel Theatre.

No slight on the other Scrooges in the intervening years, they’ve all brought much to the role.

But Wood is a living, breathing, real Scrooge.  He is Scrooge incarnate, and his transformation through miserable, to regret, to despair and finally redemptive joy is an intense, rich, emotional experience.

It helps that Wood has a certain intimacy with the role. He wrote it! Wood created the Citadel’s stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol, originally written by Charles Dickens.  

With Wood in the role, you grow teary as Scrooge relives his lonely life, the failure of his marriage and the consequences of his cynicism on those around him.

So convincing is Wood, it’s as if his own life being relived on stage … which is the mark of a great actor. 

The Citadel annual production is like a fine wine, getting better with the years.

It never fails to be the Citadel’s best-selling show every year, with the additional bonus of introducing thousands of individuals to the magic of professional theatre, people who would otherwise never step foot into a live theatre. 

The production on the thrust stage of the Citadel’s Maclab Theatre never ceases to amaze.  The entire show moves as if in a dance with the overarching sound design of the late Michael Becker. Every  theatrical “trick” in the book – flying ghosts, poltergeistic movements on the stage,  gigantic swirling spirits – is used, but all in the service of story and plot.

Over the years, this show has changed bit by bit. But always as evolution, not revolution. If one could be magically transported by one’s own guiding spirits back to the show’s premiere in 1999, it might actually be quite a different show. The intricate interplay of the Cratchit family’s Christmas Eve with the Yuletide festivities at the home of Scrooge’s good-hearted nephew Fred, for instance, has been gently re-worked over the years.

Most of Edmonton’s established actors have put in many years with this show, but do move on. Memories of James MacDonald as Scrooge, Julien Arnold as Bob Cratchit, Maralyn Ryan as Mrs. Dilber, Maralyn’s daughter Kate Ryan as Mrs. Cratchit, Ashley Wright as the Ghost of Christmas Present, the late, great Larry Yachimec as the flying ghost of Jacob Marley, John Ullyatt as Fred, April Banigan, Chris Bullough, Rejean Cournoyer, Richard McMillan, Roman Pfob and many more continue to live on in the mind. 

Fortunately the acting turn-over gradual. It’s reassuring to see veterans of the Edmonton stage back in the same or different roles – Beth Graham this year as Mrs. Cratchit, Annette Loiselle, John Kirkpatrick as Marley and Glenn Nelson as the alternate Scrooge.  And, of course, the return of Wood as Scrooge.

Many careers have been launched from, or boosted by, performances in the Citadel's  A Christmas Carol.  The first young lad to play Tiny Tim was Ben Wheelwright – now sharing the demanding lead role in the  travelling Broadway production of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.

The Citadel’s A Christmas Carol has become as much a part of our city’s Christmas as turkey ‘n’ mashed potatoes, Christmas stockings and Santa at the mall. Its opening at the start of December truly marks the start of the festive season. 

As Tom Wood (and alternate Scrooge Glenn Nelson) prove night after night on the Citadel stage, faith, hope and charity beat bitter selfishness 10 times out of 10, it’s time once again for Tiny Tim’s immortal words:  “God bless us, everyone!!!”

To the hundreds of individuals within the Citadel Theatre who make this show a wondrous reality year after year, thank you!!