Theatre in the Park executive and artistic director Ira David Wood III delivers a sumptuous gift to Triangle theatergoers in this year’s presentation of A Christmas Carol, which runs Dec. 7-11 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium and Dec. 15-18 at the Durham Performing Arts Center. Wood’s production is a feast for the senses. Mark Pirolo’s set, with its dream-like color and perspectives, invokes a “wonka-esque” kind of deliciousness that makes you believe the whole thing might actually be made of candy.
The LeGrande Smith costuming is delightful. Like you’d expect, most of the cast wore 19th century English dress from the time of Charles Dickens, but with the color saturation amped up like they had been run through a cool Instagram filter designed to make you wish you were there.
The music is a sublime sampling of different genres, but it might be the dancers who stole the show. I loved the Russian-inspired dance of the little chimney sweeps in the first act and the spirited partygoers in the dream of Christmas past enraptured me; but it was the poignant ballet telling the story of how Scrooge lost the love of Laura, performed by Dyson Beck and Nick Tew, that broke my heart.
There was a well-timed joke about how young Ebenezer had lost Laura, because he had tickets to the ACC tournament that drew a big laugh. But I wish I had been allowed to hold on to the tenderness of that dance a little longer.
If you attend this play for the first time, as I did on Wednesday night, thinking that it will be a typical retelling of a much loved classic, you would be just as wrong as I was. This production is anything but typical. David Wood has juxtaposed the story that we all know with a modern humor that is not just laugh-out-loud funny, but it is laugh-so-loud-that-you-kind-of-embarrass-your-kid sitting-next-to-you funny. But enough about me….
This was David Wood’s 42nd year in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge (minus the year his son took over the role in 2010 due to his father’s illness) and the first time that I have seen him in action. His comedic timing is perfect, and his numerous breaks to the Fourth Wall let you feel like you’re in on the joke.
But even if he had taken every single joke out of this very funny play, I’d still go see it for his voice, and all the remarkable voices of the cast. I actually cried when Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig (Brent Simpson and Laura Marshburn) sang their duet. I’m not sure that you’re supposed to cry when characters named “Fezziwig” sing, but their song filled my heart with Christmas spirit.
Dickens’ message of, “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul,” comes through loud and clear in this retelling, which acknowledges our current political climate. President-Elect Donald Trump, Democratic Party presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and N.C. Governor Pat McCrory are the targets of jokes throughout show. The joke that got the biggest laugh might have been after the dimwitted baker ran into the wall three times on his way off the set. Scrooge turns to the audience and says, “Y’all laugh, but that’s our new director of Homeland Security!”
But all joking aside, the message of the, “poorest, richest man in town” and it not being too late to change your heart and be a good person, hit home during the scene with Scrooge and Tiny Tim, played by Finn Miller. You are going to need tissues for this one, but it made me hopeful that the true meaning of Christmas might work its magic this year above all other years, and that we might heed the call for unity and love made so eloquently in a theater in Raleigh, North Carolina, on a beautiful December night.
SECOND OPINION: Dec. 7th Raleigh, NC Time Warner Cable News interview with adapter, director, and star Ira David Wood III, conducted by Caroline Blair: http://www.twcnews.com/nc/triangle-sandhills/in-depth-interview/2016/12/7/in-depth–a-christmas-carol-.html; Dec. 3rd Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Mary Cornatzer: http://www.newsobserver.com/entertainment/arts-culture/article118420428.html; and Nov. 29th Raleigh, NC WRAL.com interview with adapter, director, and star Ira David Wood III, conducted by Bill Leslie: http://www.wral.com/entertainment/video/16288106/
Theatre in the Park presents A CHRISTMAS CAROL, starring Ira David Wood III as Scrooge, at 7 p.m. Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Dec. 11 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. 15 and 16, 2 and 7 p.m. Dec. 17, and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 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 and https://www.facebook.com/events/895600543903953/ (both cities), http://www.dukeenergycenterraleigh.com/event/a-christmas-carol-6513 (Raleigh shows), and https://www.dpacnc.com/events/detail/ira-david-wood-iiis-a-christmas-carol and https://www.facebook.com/events/1794369120797400/ (Durham 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).
Nicole Noel is a former U.S. Army journalist-turned-Technical Knowledge Manger, with a love for the arts. At age seven, she wrote her first story on the wall of her basement after being told the family might have to move: “There once was a girl named Nicole who had a dog named Rat and they lived in this house.” She liked the way that you could capture a moment in a sentence, and still does. These days Nicole lives with her daughter, and a dog named Buffy, in a house in Fuquay-Varina. Click here to read her reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.