Scrooge and Co. return triumphant to Syracuse Stage

Peter Van Wagner (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Steven Hendrickson (Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol, running through December 29 at Syracuse Stage. Photo by Michael Davis

Peter Van Wagner (Ghost of Christmas Present) and Steven Hendrickson (Scrooge) in A Christmas Carol, running through December 29 at Syracuse Stage. Photo by Michael Davis

A Christmas Carol

Who: Syracuse Stage

Where: 820 E. Genesee St., Syracuse, NY

When: Through December 29th

Tickets:  $30 – $54. Children (under 18): $20. Under 40: $35 all tickets, all performances. SU students: $20 all performances.

Review by Miriam Taylor

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor,” said Charles Dickens in his famous tale, A Christmas Carol. Syracuse Stage and SU Drama’s production of this holiday classic—one part riveting ghost story, one part Christmas miracle—was every part delightful. 

Steven Hendrickson’s Scrooge was the perfect balance of curmudgeon and innocence. As the character of Scrooge progresses from a “Bah! Humbug!” shouting old man to a giddily dancing, turkey-buying, Merry-Christmas-wishing young soul, Hendrickson’s manner follows suit. Rather than playing the bowing old man typically seen in Christmas Carol performances, this tall actor utilizes his height to his advantage, emphasizing Scrooge’s rigidity towards humanity.

While Hendrickson deserves special recognition (for without the right Scrooge it is difficult to engage an audience with so familiar with a tale), the rest of the cast and the crew must be lauded for their performances. The ensemble members won the audience over from the start with their songs, humor, and festivity. Each cast member looked as if they were enjoying the show as much as the audience, and in true Dickens’ fashion, the laughter and good humor was contagious. However, while the laughter matched Dickensian humor, sadly the horror and fear was a bit lackluster. Instead of relying on the terror that lies in Dickens script, the performance banked on a dark stage and sudden lights to frighten the audience.

The junior actors performed their parts wonderfully, at times upstaging their adult peers. Gerard B. McCrohan, the talented 10-year-old who sang Noel and haunted Scrooge, was as wide-eyed and wonderful as possible.

Steven Hendrickson (Scrooge) and Erin Christine Walsh (Ghost of Christmas Past) in A Christmas Carol, running through December 29 at Syracuse Stage. Photo by Michael Davis

Steven Hendrickson (Scrooge) and Erin Christine Walsh (Ghost of Christmas Past) in A Christmas Carol, running through December 29 at Syracuse Stage. Photo by Michael Davis

Peter Amster’s direction and Diane Adams McDowell’s musical direction paid off as the performance is new in its telling of a favorite and familiar tale. Giddy and humorous, albeit not quite as fearful, the performance is definitely a delight (and kid-friendly).

But as talented and engaging as the actors were, this performance was a triumph of the stage in all parts: acting, scenic design, lighting, sound, direction and costuming. The seemingly simple (yet complicated in its construction) scenic design at once harkened back Scrooge’s austere world of Victorian London as well as its colorful counterpart known by his compatriots. The lighting and sparse set representing Scrooge’s jaunts to the past, present and future were breathtaking in their design. Both Linda Buchanan (scenic designer) and Thomas C. Hase (lighting designer) deserve special recognition for their work on the show.

Even more notable is how Tracy Dorman’s costume design pulled the entire performance together. Scrooge’s drab colors contrasted with the ensemble’s cheerful hues, and highlighted differences in manner.  The brightness of the past versus the paleness of the present showcased the already obvious differences in the life of “Mr. Humbug.” The various textures, shades, materials and accessories accompanying the ensemble aptly represented the clothing of the different classes of that time. But it was the silver and white, almost French court-like costume of the Ghost of Christmas Past and the cheery light up costume of the Ghost of Christmas Present that stole the show.

Syracuse Stage and SU Drama’s A Christmas Carol takes the audience on a journey back in time and to another world—one that is marvelous to enter and quite sad to leave.

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