web analytics

“A Christmas Carol” Keeps Delivering

2010-12-09_21-34-59_978 Filling a legend’s shoes is never easy, especially when it is done on short notice. That’s why this year’s Theatre In The Park production of “A Christmas Carol” is such a phenomenal story.

With just a month before the the company’s 36th production was to hit the stage, Theatre In The Park director and show star Ira Davd Wood, III (IDW3) received a bombshell; he had to have bypass surgery and would not be able to perform the role of Scrooge this season. Wood turned to his son, Ira David Wood, IV (IDW4), to play the part. He also turned to his daughter, Evan Rachael Wood , to co-direct the production. The result? A fantastic evening of entertainment as it always has been.

IDW3’s Theatre In The Park is one of the most stable local theater houses in the country, and the longevity and camaraderie of the board and the Christmas Carol cast is a testament Wood’s creativity, leadership, and reliability. The news from early November would have been devastating news to many theaters. However this cast and supporters has done what it takes to snap in a new star of the show this season.

Scrooge, as Raleigh residents know him, is the creation of IDW3. True to the story, Scrooge is materialistic and greedy and finds the value of relationships through his encounters with ghosts during a long-night’s sleep. However this Scrooge is hilarious, turning current events, local celebrities, and stuffy characters into jokes that have the house rolling. If you haven’t seen this production before it is a must-see that no national comedians have come close to touching. If you have seen the production, this year’s version is a fascinating experience.

Stepping into a legend’s role has to be difficult, even more so when you are that legend’s son. With only one month of rehearsal, IDW4 smartly played it safe, putting only a few of his own touches on the role. While he doesn’t quite sell the role’s humor or heavy drama scenes as well as his veteran father, he is more agile, has a stronger voice, and seems a little more in touch with popular culture. IDW4 did an admirable job in making Scrooge come to life in a way Raleigh residents expect.

The company is extremely similar to last year’s, including the fantastic David Henderson (Jacob Marley), David Moore (Bob Cratchit), Mike Raab (Ghost of Christmas Future), John Shearer (Ghost of Christmas Present), and more. Most scenes are identical to last season’s production, however the Ghost of Christmas Future scene has been reworked with a Tim Burton feel and sets up a great TSA joke. One wonders if the goth interests of Evan had an impact here.

There were some other great new jokes, including IDW4’s references to his father and his relative youth. The best new joke, though, was delivered by a fever-laden David Henderson, and it regards a second opinion on buying an iPhone (spoilers withheld).

Some that I didn’t remember from the past were also good, such as Grace Goetz (Ghost of Christmas Past) whose enunciation was superb. I also enjoyed “Wilma” (?Blaire Callaghan?, the wife of nephew Fred) who has a voice I could listen to for a full-length production.

There were a couple of weaknesses, as to be expected. We had a difficult time in the first act understanding some of Scrooge’s jokes. It was difficult to discern whether it was due to acoustics at our side seats, the general acoustics in the room, or problems with diction from the stage. Worse, however, was the Marlettes, a Rockettes styled dance troop whose tap routine was an utter mess. Their performance was the first time I’ve ever seen a tap routine that was not met with obligatory applause from the crowd.

The entire production is outstanding, though. The 3-hour journey has much visual variety, excellent musical range, and good pacing. While the Raleigh version has a big emphasis on humor, it admirably delivers the heavy message Dickens intended. As Scrooge realizes the value of his relationships, there is part of every viewer that will kind of miss the old, hilarious Scrooge. However the entire company’s stirring rendition of “The First Noel” is a tear jerker to many, and leaves the crowd appreciating the delivery of a full production that works on many levels to many people.

A Christmas Carol runs through December 15 at Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium. Tickets are available thru Ticketmaster .

  • VaNC

    But it just seems to get longer and longer every year. I think that when they add a new joke, they should take out an old one. I enjoy it, but always find myself a little disappointed when I think the Elvis number is the finale, and realize it is only the 7th inning stretch and we have another whole HOUR to go.

    I guess I am not a true Raleighite.

top -->