Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol comes to life on the stage of Ventura’s Rubicon Theater bringing the wonder of the season, the familiar story and the pageantry of the classics. Now in its second annual Christmas showing, the innovative staging and creative characterizations allow the audience not only to enjoy the familiar tale in a new way, but also to become immersed in the very lives of the players.
Directed by Brian McDonald, with book adapted by Rubicon’s Artistic Director and guiding light Karyl Lynn Burns, the play brings out the humor in the piece in places where many productions opt for more glum characterizations. Multi-level staging and creative scenery change options make the transitions smooth and as interesting as the story itself
Debuting last year, Rubicon’s A Christmas Carol breaks away from tradition to focus on the telling of the tale, accenting each point as though letting the audience in on a secret. The ensemble, more than capably led by veteran actors Joe Spano and Peter Van Norden, effortlessly glides through the narrative with a sense of full inclusion. Highlighted by simple yet effective special effects, music and lighting, the play takes on a mysterious quality with many actors playing numerous roles.
On Christmas Eve, Ebenezer Scrooge, a curmudgeonly miser, is visited by three spirits who give him glimpses into his past, his present and his future. Through these windows he sees clearly how he evolved into the man he is and vows to change his ways. The story is told as a series of narrated vignettes accompanied by a large chorus of players who all take on multiple roles to tell the tale. Peter Van Norden plays Scrooge with glee, inviting the audience into his innermost thoughts. He is well matched by Joe Spano who takes the ghost of Jacob Marley to a new level.
The 25-member cast provides memorable musical moments as well as setting the scenes and filling out the story in myriad ways. The production is not a typical staging of the play and as such, gives new insights and a fresh view of the classic tale. It is simply mesmerizing on the whole.
The holiday season always brings forth choices in productions of A Christmas Carol, The Nutcracker and other standards. The Rubicon’s production offers an excellent theatrical experience to help one settle into the warm familiarity of the story with a few twists. It is recommended for all ages. A warning however – seeing this production may taint an appreciation for all other stagings of this classic tale.
There is still time to catch performances which conclude on Christmas Eve. Shows play Wednesday at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m. Give a gift of theater and take the whole family.
Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street, Ventura (corner of Main and Laurel in Ventura’s Downtown Cultural District). Discounts available for seniors, students, teachers and military. 805-667-2900, www.rubicontheatre.org. Reservations highly recommended.