The historic 36th edition of long-time Theatre in the Park executive and artistic director Ira David Wood III’s zany musical-comedy version of A Christmas Carol marks the first time ever that someone besides David Wood has hammed it up hilariously as Charles Dickens’ miserly old misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge, whose miraculous Christmas Eve change-of-heart annually leaves TIP patrons laughing through their tears.
When emergency open-heart surgery sidelined David Wood in early November, his 26-year-old son and namesake Ira David Wood IV stepped in, and the show has gone on, without missing a beat. Indeed, new star Ira Wood — who was slated to play The Lamplighter in what TIP insiders call ACC 2010 — helps this year’s stellar production shine even brighter as he faithfully mimics has father’s outrageously over-the-top antics, but sets a somewhat brisker pace. It is an auspicious debut in what has become David Wood’s signature role.
The bottom line is that Durham Performing Arts Center and Raleigh Memorial Auditorium patrons of A Christmas Carol need not fear; they have gotten and will get their money’s-worth and more. Moreover, they will get a chance to be part of history.
With its charismatic supporting cast, its timely topical humor skewering all the latest fads, instant celebrities, and political poltroons, and a hard-rocking ACC Orchestra, spurred on musical director and pianist Diane Petteway, ACC 2010 is once again a must-see musical, with Mark Pirolo’s spectacular Broadway-style sets of Victorian London and striking period costumes by Scrooge and Marley costume designer Rita Riggs and costumer Rasool Jahan creating a veritable feast for the eye to go along with the banquet for the ear ginned by Ms. Petteway and her peppy pit band.
Co-director Evan Rachel Wood and choreographer Brijet Whitney have enlivened director Ira David Wood III’s original musical staging and quickened the show’s pace by excising a few minor scenes and keeping ad libs to a minimum. The sizable contributions of lighting designer Thomas Mauney and sound designer Jonathan Parke also help transform A Christmas Carol into a true musical extravaganza.
Ira Wood’s crowd-pleasing portrayal of the irascible Scrooge finds a perfect foil in David Henderson’s robust repeat performance as the roly-poly ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s erstwhile partner in parsimony. Little Grace Goetz as the cheeky Ghost of Christmas Past, towering basso profundo John Shearer as the jolly ho-ho-ho Ghost of Christmas Present, and Mike Raab as the sinister Ghost of Christmas Future all create truly unforgettable characters. Indeed, Shearer’s booming vocal extolling the milk of human kindness will set the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium rafters aquiver.
A Christmas Carol regular David Moore is once again amusing as Scrooge & Marley’s long-suffering milquetoast clerk Bob Cratchit; Greg Wait suavely narrates the improbable events of Scrooge’s Christmas Eve conversion, while making his rounds as the Lamplighter; Tim Marriott and Blaire Callaghan make excellent impressions as Scrooge’s much-despised nephew Fred and his beautiful young wife; Mitchell Danforth as Young Scrooge and Kathleen Black as his childhood sweetheart Laura dance a beautiful bittersweet ballet as Ebenezer’s increasing obsession with making more and more money separates him forever from the love of his life; and Bryant Prince is cute as Tiny Tim Cratchit.
Triangle theater legend David Wood was only 27 years old in 1974, when he first donned the pointy prosthetic nose and ratty gray wig and troweled on the old-age makeup to transform himself into much older penny-pincher extraordinaire Ebenezer Scrooge. His larger-than-life performance as London’s King of Mean, circa 1843, has provided an excellent roadmap for his 26-year-old son and designated successor in the role, Ira Wood, whose auspicious debut as Scrooge is certainly his most impressive Triangle performance to date and an encouraging sign that this much-beloved home-grown Christmas musical will continue to delight generations yet unborn, long after David Wood bequeaths, perhaps, his best-known role to son Ira.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 10th Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3 of 5 stars): http://www.indyweek.com/artery/archives/2010/12/10/when-is-good-good-enough-dpacs-young-frankenstein-and-tips-a-christmas-carol; Dec. 8th Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/12/08/849519/like-father-like-son.html and Dec. 4th and Nov. 5th previews by Matt Ehlers: http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/12/04/842080/smile-ira-thats-your-father-scowling.html and http://www.newsobserver.com/2010/11/05/782380/new-scrooge-familiar-name.html, respectively; Nov. 12th News 14 Carolina interview: http://charlotte.news14.com/content/headlines/632682/actor-ira-david-wood-iii-undergoes-heart-surgery; and Nov. 4th WRAL-TV story: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/story/8570154/. (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Dec. 4th Triangle Theater Review preview, by Robert W. McDowell, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2010/12/26-year-old-ira-wood-debuts-as-scrooge-in-tips-2010-edition-of-a-christmas-carol/.)
Theatre in the Park presents A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Ira David Wood IV as Scrooge, at 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 11, 2 p.m. Dec. 12, and 7 p.m. Dec. 13-15 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
BOX OFFICE: Ticketmaster: 800/745-3000 or 919/834-4000, or http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/1003849.
DIRECTIONS/PARKING: http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=36 (directions) and http://www.progressenergycenter.com/page.php?mode=privateview&pageID=37 (parking).
The Musical: http://web.me.com/idw3/A_CHRISTMAS_CAROL/OVERVIEW.html (official website).
Ira David Wood III: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/theatre_staff_board.html (Theatre in the Park), http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_David_Wood_III (Wikipedia), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0202796/ (Internet Movie Database).
Charles Dickens: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens (Wikipedia).
Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.
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To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/robert-w-mcdowell/.