Once upon a time, It was the 3rd of December and I was not in the Christmas Spirit. Though radio stations had been playing Christmas songs since April I had not yet listened to a single one. Still, I was on my way to aNoiseWithin to see “A Christmas Carol” and I was so ready to be a big old Scrooge!
Before I even parked I had this review written in my head and it was only going to be two words “Bah Humbug.” Why? Why didn’t it feel like Christmas yet? It was cold. There are lights. I was grumpy. However, after watching this show, and I know I’m mixing my holiday stories here, but my heart grew three sizes that night.
I’m telling you this stocking was stuffed with goodies. From grandiose and fantastical costumes designed by ANGELA BALOGH CALIN a soothing original score created by ROBERT ORIOL and a wealth of skilled character actors this show is a Dickensian good time. Did I mention this show has an incredible original score!
DEBORAH STRANG’s bawdy burglar would be as comfortable in “Sweeney Todd” or “Les Miserables” as she is here singing a raucous tune. JEREMY RABB can be downright frightening as his “Jacob Marley” bounces manically between loving friend and shackled spirit. ROSHNI SHUKLA brings the show to a whole new level as she rips the heart out of young Ebenezer all the while maintaining her impressive grace and dignity. I could have watched a whole other show of just those two.
“A Christmas Carol” really shines when the ensemble takes the stage with all their bells and… well just bells, but trust me that’s enough. Not only can they enchant us with charming melodies they can turn the toughest frown upside down with their silly dance routines. It was as refreshing as brisk breeze to hear songs sung by a talented choir instead of the same old Coast 103.5 playlist.
Though it is ultimately geared towards children, aNoiseWithin’s version harkens back to the Victorian era of class and fashionable opulence yet brings us into the homes and dwellings of those we often forget existed there. The population of England was growing rapidly, as evidenced in this play by Mr. Crachit’s 7 children. During this time period, London’s population expanded to over four million, which spurred a high demand for cheap housing. London suburbs like Crachits’ Camden Town became overcrowded and deeply stressed. BERT EMMETT as Mr. Crachit is touching as a father who has more than enough love to go around even in the toughest of times.
At first I wasn’t sure how the children in the audience would react to the flowery language and the surrealistic staging. Then I reminded myself of how childhood development experts like Amanda Morgan believe we should speak up to kids not dumb things down. Nothing could spark the imagination or build the attention span more than swinging spirits spouting prose.
“A Christmas Carol” was written in 1843. It has been performed time and time again. Despite it being an annual tradition aNoiseWithin is aware enough to know that this story needs to be heard now more than ever. As our country’s wealth gap continues to grow we can only hope every Scrooge could have such a revelation. GEOFF ELLIOT as Ebenezer Scrooge is a delight as a reformed man. His buffoonery is wonderful and one could imagine him inhabiting any of Shakespeare’s great clowns with ease. He reminds us that the holiday season isn’t about things or money it’s about spreading joy and good cheer.
That is truly a message we could all afford to listen to. As one young man in the audience put it, “I’d give it a thumbs up.”
Where: A Noise Within 3352 E. Foothill Blvd. Pasadena, CA 91107
When: 7 pm Thursday through Sunday. Saturday, December 10th, Wednesday, Dec 21st at 2 pm
A Noise Within offers sensory-friendly ‘relaxed’ performance of “A Christmas Carol” for audiences with Autism, PTSD, Alzheimer’s and others.
Tickets: $25-$87 at www.anoisewithin.org