Long a tradition at the Woodstock Opera House, Woodstock Municipal Theatre Company presents its final production of “A Christmas Carol.” Doubtless the show will continue on, but WMTC is merging with TownSquare Players and will no longer exist except in memories. As WMTC has since 1995, a streamlined adaptation by actor-director Ned O’Reilly has once again captivated audiences.
This is a decidedly difficult review for me to write, having known and lauded so many of the actors who have joyously brought O’Reilly’s user friendly script to life. But truly this production has to be a love letter to director Kathie Comella, who has stage managed “A Christmas Carol” at the Opera House 16 times and directed it 12 times. And always brilliantly, always professionally.
Comella utilizes three fog machines, two turntables, rigged trick windows and bed clothes, not to mention hundreds of props, probably most endearingly those of Comella’s grandmother scattered on the set, and Victorian confection costumes designed by Kat’s Kloset. This “A Christmas Carol” is a visual delight.
What’s even more commendable is due to the Thanksgiving holiday, tech week was only three days, which to anyone who understands theater knows that is a massive undertaking, if not massive creator of stress.
Comella has once again brought the exquisite Stephen Connell to the Opera House stage as the finite miserly Scrooge. This is a part Connell is perfect for; he’s got the looks, diction, physique and the talent to transform subtly and credibly before your eyes. In a departure from traditional casting, Lia Hyrkas is Tiny Tim. She’s both captivating and adorable and you can not wait for her to say “God Bless Us, Everyone”.
The stellar John McCall is Bob Crachit and is a master of facial expressiveness and flawless diction. Matt Stewart eloquently introduces and closes Dickens’ parable while also engagingly portraying Scrooge’s nephew Fred. Best of all, there is an evident chemistry between all four of these actors.
Of course, there are other notables: Beth Davis is a graceful, ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past; Tim Curtis is the perfect robust and heartily joyful Ghost of Christmas Present, and Joey Brown is the eerily silent and very tall Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. Mark Moscinski is also outstanding as Marley and Old Joe.
They are all supported by a most colorful, energetic ensemble of Victorian characters; the cast of 36 is a fine illustration of Dickens’ cheer and sadness, beauty and ugliness. It’s a show for families as well as a show that features families.
There’s two sets of mother-daughter combos (Holly and Sydney Adkins, April Noel and Nora Rose), two sets of father-daughters (Charlotte and Tom Cynor, John and Emi McCall), three sets of brother-sisters (Charlie and Mary Martin, Emerich and Malaika Parpart, Anthony and Marissa Funk) and even two sisters (Alexie and Lia Hyrkas).
Charles Dickens first published “A Christmas Carol” as an eighty paged novella in 1843 when the British were exploring and re-evaluating past Christmas Traditions. Dickens was heavily influenced by his own youth and his visits to the Field Lane Ragged School, one of London’s several establishments for street children. “A Christmas Carol” has never been out of print, and has been adapted numerous times for film, stage, opera, and other media but I doubt you’ll find a more loving production than WMTC’s.
• Regina Belt-Daniels is a happily working actor and director. She is a retired Raue Center for the Arts Board member, a lifetime member of TownSquare Players, and currently serves on the boards of RCLPC and It’s Showtime. Regina is also a retired District 47 Special Educator and 2018 Woman of Distinction.
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
Through Dec. 2
Two hours with one 15 minute intermission
Tickets $25 A seating $22 B seating, $18 C seating (students and seniors $23, $20, $16)
At the Woodstock Opera House
121 W Van Buren St., Woodstock