It’s fair to say that not long ago community theaters across the country were up to their figgy puddings in adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. It also seems fair to note that of late Ebenezer Scrooge—that old miser -- has had share the holiday spotlight with the raucous family in A Christmas Story and even the antics of the title character in Elf.
It seems that Argenta Community Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, coming to the stage by way of an adaptation by celebrated Little Rock playwright Judy Goss, is in possession of good timing. Directed by Vince Insalco, this production provided a sold out opening night crowd with a reminder of the appeal and power of A Christmas Carol. While it did not stray too far Dickens’ original story, it had more than a little theatrical magic and Christmas song up its sleeve.
The tone was set by a fiddler (Charlie Friedman) taking the stage right at the top. Traditional carols, sung throughout the show by practically every member of the large cast (32 children and adults), added a decided feeling of warmth to this old ghost story. It is easy to forget that redemption comes to poor Scrooge (Greg Robinson) after being flown about and ultimately scared witless by three “spirits.” With some clever costuming by Shelly Hall and special effects by stage designer/technical director Sara Cooke, the haunting of Ebnezer didn’t have Broadway dazzle but it certainly did the trick.
Despite streaks of gray in his hair, Robinson’s Scrooge is younger and more lively than one would expect from the old skinflint. As a result, Robinson’s early “Bah, humbug” stage lacked a little bite but his later Christmas conversion was glorious and funny (his put-upon worker Bob Cratchit (Ben Grimes) was too stunned to catch the bag of money flung his way).
Perhaps the best thing about this A Christmas Carol is the way that it personifies the idea of community theater. This bustling singing and dancing cast is dedicated to the task – not to mention being populated with husbands and wives, parents and children acting on stage together. There is a lot of love being poured into this old tale. At the end, it shines so much you would think it was brand new.
A Christmas Carol continues through Dec. 23 at the Argenta Community Theater in North Little Rock. For tickets, call the box office at (501) 353-1571 or see the website, http://argentacommunitytheater.org/.