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A Christmas Carol

As always, the Denver Center Theatre Company's production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is something to behold, filled with beautiful carols, luxuriant costumes (Kevin Copenhaver), refined lighting (Don Darnutzer), imaginative staging (Vicki Smith), great storytelling, a lush soundtrack (Craig Breitenbrach) and orchestrations (Gregg Coffin), and well-drawn performances, beginning with Philip Pleasants' Scrooge, who has come to define the character in a way that is rarely achieved.

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge
Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
Having seen more than half the company's 22 productions of this classic, we are perhaps more attuned than most to some of the subtleties of the story, and in this year's version would only quibble with a couple of wrinkles, mentioning these details because we believe that this play is a touchstone in the way that Everyman and other morality plays define their eras. First, the costume for this year's Ghost of Christmas Future was modified in a couple of ways that resulted in a smaller and less scary visitation. Why, when our future is becoming increasingly uncertain would it be presented in this way?

Jeff Roark as the Ghost of Jacob Marley and Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge
Jeff Roark as the
Ghost of Jacob Marley
and Philip Pleasants as
Ebenezer Scrooge
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
Also, Marley's Ghost scene, after he arrives and before he leaves, seemed less explosive (in the use of the chains and sound) than in the past; after all, "The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made ... of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel"; nevertheless, Jeffrey Roark puts a sting into Marley's lament:

I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house -- mark me! -- in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!" ...

"But you were always a good man of business, Jacob," faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

"Business!" cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. "Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!"

The only other issue is an ongoing one: As the parallels between Charles Dickens' industrial London and our present circumstances continue to grow, with the number of poor, hungry, and homeless persons at the extreme, the author's seminal work—and his personal favorite—continues to grow in importance. Yet, this may come as a surprise to those whose notion of A Christmas Carol is that Scrooge was simply a greedy business man. Sadly, if one were to read the study guide to the current Denver Center Theatre Company production, one would never know that Dickens' intention was more specific.

According to the original story, Scrooge was a banker within the City of London, as Marley noted above, and as we read further in chapter one:

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker's-book, went home to bed.

Why is this important? Because bankers in the City of London, and their affiliates around the globe—including Wall Street's "too big to fail" banks that own the so-called "Federal" Reserve System, the Vatican Bank, and various other privately held central banks—are implementing policies which follow Scrooge's emphatic proclamation to the Subscription Gentlemen that "If they (the poor) would rather die, they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population." Indeed, the .00001% have been long-time supporters of eugenics. Perhaps our friends are worried that the truth of Dickens' leading character's profile might offend local extensions of the international banking cartel, which so generously trickle down a pittance of their ill-earned booty to "the the inferior social stratum of society." [1]

James Michael Reilly as Bob Cratchit and Elias Harger as Tiny Tim
James Michael Reilly as Bob Cratchit
and Elias Harger as Tiny Tim
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
This misguided spin on Dickens' intentions aside, Pleasants' stellar performance is supported impressively at all levels. James Michael Reilly, as Bob Cratchit, delivers a sweet, layered performance of humbleness and heartfelt spiritual insights, with Leslie Alexander, as Mrs. Cratchit, who brings a nice blend of supportive temerity. M. Scott McLean exudes good-natured gaiety and wit as Scrooge's nephew, Fred.

Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge and Stephanie Cozart as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Philip Pleasants as Ebenezer Scrooge
and Stephanie Cozart as the
Ghost of Christmas Present
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
Stephanie Cozart's sublime and elegant performance as the Ghost of Christmas Past is always a highlight; Leonard Barrett brings marvelous joviality to the Ghost of Christmas Present, as well as moral authority to his narrative and commentary.

"Man," said the Ghost, "if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man's child.

Michael Fitzpatrick as Fessiwig and Leslie O'Carroll as Mrs. Fessiwig
Michael Fitzpatrick as Fessiwig
and Leslie O'Carroll as Mrs. Fessiwig
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
Michael Fitzpatrick as Fezziwig and Leslie O'Carroll as Mrs. Fezziwig are a comedic delight, celebrating merriment and good cheer. Courtney Capek provides a deeply moving moment as Belle, when she releases Ebenezer the Young Man (M. Scott McLean) from their engagement, as she explains:

"It matters little," she said, softly. "To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve."

"What Idol has displaced you?" he rejoined.

"A golden one."

Leonard E. Barrett Jr. as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Leonard E. Barrett Jr.
as the Ghost of Christmas Present
Photo: Jennifer M Koskinen
Top all this off with five lovely carols, including "Wassail" and "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," lovely dances (choreographed by Christine Rowan), and fine performances by the younger actors.

The Denver Center Theatre Company's production of A Christmas Carol, adapted by Richard Hellesen, Music by David de Berry, directed by Bruce K. Sevy, runs through December 29th. For tickets: 303-893-4100 or www.denvercenter.org.

Bob Bows

Footnote:
[1] US Bankers magazine, 1892 (Sarah E. Van De Vort Emery, Imperialism in America: Its Rise and Progress, Emery & Emery, 1893, pgs 71-72, as quoted in the Chicago Daily Press)

 

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