‘Tis the season for the telling of a classic tale — Theatre in the Park’s musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This Raleigh institution, which some affectionately call “The Ira David Wood Show,” enters its second 40 years of music, dance, and singing a Christmas masterpiece.
As in Christmases past, the multi-talented Ira David Wood III wowed the audience on the show’s opening night, Dec. 9th, at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium. (His son, Ira David Wood IV, will play Scrooge at the Saturday, Dec. 12th, matinee performances at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and the Saturday, Dec. 19th, matinee performances at the Durham Performing Arts Center).
The stage was set from the get-go, with a gigantic wreath projected onto the proscenium curtain setting the mood. Once that curtain parted, the crowd was treated to a tableau straight out of a snowy day in London, circa 1843, when townsfolk are happily anticipating Christmas day. This is just the first of many skilled lighting effects designed by Thomas Mauney.
The sets are truly remarkable, too, so we tip our hat to Mark Pirolo for his clever design, which includes various scenescapes painted on screens that can be lifted and lowered to reveal new houses, rooms, and people. What is especially impressive is the illusion of 3-D in the backdrops. When the Lamplighter (David Bankert) enters and lights the lamps, the city comes to life.
Naturally, Scrooge hum-bugs his way through the town, scowling and skillfully dodging his nephew (Edward Freeman) and niece (an hysterically perky Lauren Paige Rainey), as they attempt in vain to give him some Christmas cheer. Of course, we all know that Scrooge will have to reevaluate his life when the ghosts of Christmas Past (an adorable and quite talented Amelia Edmonston), Christmas Present (John Shearer, who channels “The Big Bopper” — are we showing our ages here?), and Christmas Future (Jonathan Rand). (Rand portrays the ghost of Christmas Future as a figure from current events that we won’t reveal to our readers. Let’s just say that the liberals in the audience would be dismayed to find him at their Christmas feast!)
For the uninitiated, Pam included, David Wood’s production of A Christmas Carol is known for injecting current events into the classic Dickens story. That’s one reason why this show has been so popular for so many years.
This year, there were references to the Republican Party, Elvis, and Scrooge “saving a lot of money on his auto insurance”. Scrooge also “Un-friends” his nephew on Facebook. Even Yoda makes an appearance. The audience loved it. There was also a lot of slapstick, fun sound-effects, and songs, both Christmas classics and new offerings.
The band was spot-on, and nailed over a dozen songs. The choreography was simple but effective. There was ballet in the scenes from young Scrooge’s life (a little bird told us that Grayson Gingo’s turn as a young Scrooge came at the 11th hour. He did great!)
Even Jacob Marley (a larger-than-life David Henderson) had a tapdancing troupe of showgirls to help him bring his messages home to Scrooge. The only odd part of the evening came after the curtain call, when David Wood led the audience in a rendition of “God Bless America.” The tune made no sense after an evening of Christmas fare.
A Christmas Carol: Charles Dickens wrote it. Ira David Wood III adapted it. Theatre in the Park produced it. Wednesday’s opening-night audience thoroughly enjoyed it.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable News preview by Caroline Blair: http://www.twcnews.com/nc/triangle-sandhills/in-depth-interview/2015/12/7/in-depth–a-christmas-carol.html; Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com preview for “Out & About”: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/out_and_about/event/14948497/; Dec. 2nd Durham, NC Indy Week mini-preview by Byron Woods: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/a-christmas-carol/Event?oid=4907723; and Dec. 2nd Raleigh, NC WRAL TV preview: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/out_and_about/video/15150179/ and Dec. 1st preview: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/holiday/video/15148120/. (Note: To read Triangle Arts and Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 11th Triangle Review review by Dawn Reno Langley, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2015/12/ira-david-wood-iiis-thoroughly-irreverent-version-of-a-christmas-carol-delights-triangle-audiences/.)
Theatre in the Park presents A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Ira David Wood III as Scrooge, at 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 12, and 2 p.m. Dec. 13 at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601; and 7 p.m. Dec. 17 and 18, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 19, and 2 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.
TIP Box Office: 919-831-6058.
Ticketmaster (Raleigh shows): 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1003849.
DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787), firstname.lastname@example.org, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/where-to-buy.
Ticketmaster (Durham shows): 800-745-3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115558/1003849.
GROUP RATES (20+ tickets to Raleigh shows): 919-831-6058, ext. 1071, or email@example.com.
GROUP RATES (20+ tickets to Durham shows): 919/281-0587, Groups@DPACnc.com, or http://www.dpacnc.com/events-tickets/group-services.
SHOW: http://theatreinthepark.com/calendar/event/2/ (both cities) and http://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/a-christmas-carol-3 and https://www.facebook.com/events/885267271549411/ (DPAC shows).
PRESENTER: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/, https://www.facebook.com/theatreintheparkraleigh, https://twitter.com/theatreinpark, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_in_the_Park.
Raleigh Memorial Auditorium: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/venue/memorial-auditorium (directions: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/directions and parking: http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/parking).
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/, https://www.facebook.com/DPACNC, https://twitter.com/DPAC, and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durham_Performing_Arts_Center (directions: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan_your_visit/getting_here and parking: http://www.dpacnc.com/plan_your_visit/parking_guide).
A Christmas Carol (1843 novel): http://charlesdickenspage.com/carol.html (David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page), http://web.archive.org/web/20080825120326/http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/toc/modeng/public/DicChri.html (text courtesy University of Virginia Library), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Carol (Wikipedia).
Charles Dickens (English novelist, 1812-70): http://www.dickens2012.org/ (Dickens 2012), http://www.dickensfellowship.org/ (The Dickens Fellowship), http://charlesdickenspage.com/index.html (David Perdue’s Charles Dickens Page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens (Wikipedia).
Ira David Wood III (adapter, director, and star): http://theatreinthepark.com/about/whos-who (Theatre in the Park bio), https://www.facebook.com/iradavidwood (Facebook page), https://twitter.com/idwiii (Twitter page), and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_David_Wood_III (Wikipedia).
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.