Theatrical Review for The Transylvania Times (Monday, December 17 edition)

BLT's 'A Christmas Carol' Is A Pure Delight
A review by William Mashburn

Charles Dickens' classic tale, A Christmas Carol, as adapted by Jeffery Scott Elwell, is
being presented by BLT in the Morrison Playhouse at the Porter Center on the Brevard
College campus.  

The show, which opened this past weekend, continues this coming weekend with one
evening performance and two matinee performances.  I predict it will play to sold-out
audiences once the word spreads.  

Fans of this story, and I am one of them, will find all the essential ingredients in this
adaptation, as well as all the beloved (well, mostly beloved) characters from the traditional
story.  Charles Dickens himself, played by the venerable Gene O'Hare, appears as the
narrator of the story.

While Pat McAfee, the director, and Maureen Edick, the producer, are to be commended for
attempting the near impossible feat of pulling off this gigantic show with its cast of 37 actors
playing nearly 50 characters, the small stage area of the Morrison Playhouse nevertheless
presents some unique challenges for the director, the actors, the dancers and the technical
crew.

At the Wednesday night Dress Rehearsal, with a near-capacity audience, the show got off to
a slow and somewhat tentative start but quickly gained momentum.  The very innovative
mobile sets, designed by Elizabeth Shields, initially proved cumbersome to maneuver on the
small stage and there were some lapses in the action and the dialogue, but the talented and
agile cast, as well as the technical crew, were determined to overcome these obstacles.
I seldom cite the efforts of the production staff, but in this show these efforts really shine.The
costumes are nothing short of spectacular.  They really stand out.  Orchids go to Costume
Designer Sonia Arnold and Assistant Costume Designer Sandi Thompson, and their costume
makers and sources.  Compliments are due also to Michael Wilson, Stage Manager, and his
assistants, Sandi Thompson and Amanda Hager, for moving sets and people as efficiently as
they did.  Another area for commendation are the authentic-looking props, especially the
chains of Marley's Ghost, and the table settings in the home of the Cratchit family.   Alberta
Peshkin, Props Mistress, and Maggee London, who were responsible for the culinary props
and the chains, are to be congratulated.  The lighting design for the show created the
appropriate moods, but occasionally actors found themselves in the dark when they moved
off center stage.

As for the performers, Al Edick is great as the miserly Scrooge, but even better as the
reformed Scrooge.  As a counterweight to Edick as Scrooge, Michael Wilson gives an
outstanding performance as Fred, Scrooge's nephew.  Wilson (Fred) shows so much strength
of character in standing up to the maleficent Scrooge, and his perseverance despite
Scrooge's intransigence, is a sermon in itself.

Kathleen Moore is wonderful as the ethereal Ghost of Christmas Past, and Joe Carvajal gives
a stunning performance as Marley's Ghost.  Mark Thompson is very good as the assertive
Ghost of Christmas Present, while Jack King is challenged with the non-verbal role of
Christmas Yet-to-Come.

Gary Nye gives a very sensitive interpretation of the role of Bob Cratchit.  Allison Nicole
Pressley is especially good as Nell, who plays the betrothed (another sad story) of the young
Scrooge.   Andy Thompson as young Scrooge, is more interested in making money and is
even miserly with his kisses, giving Nell merely a peck on the lips.  Andy also played the role
of Topper in other scenes.

Anna Bishop endears herself to the audience as little Tiny Tim.  Brittany Toups is excellent in
her role as Elizabeth, Fred's wife, and gives the audience a special treat with her very musical
solo, “Ave Maria.”  Meredith Byrd,  an up-and-coming young actress, is very strong and
confident in the role of Mary, Elizabeth's Sister.  She projects her voice especially well.

Finally, the award-winning young actor, Ray Huth, who has become a mainstay in BLT
productions, shows that he can handle minor roles, such as Larchmont, with the same
passion that he does with major roles, the mark of a true theater professional.

Completing the fine cast are Carla Hill as First Solicitor, Carole King as Second Solicitor,
Oliver Shields as Young Ebenezer, Taylor Burton as Todd, Elly Leidner as Fanny and as
Cindy Cratchit, Ed Shields in triple roles as Mr. Fezziwig, Nell's Husband and Wealthy Friend,
Sandi Thompson as Mrs. Fezziwig, Josh Heath as Young Jacob Marley, Lynsy Folckomer as
Belle and also as Want, Tamara Nye as Mrs. Cratchit, Chelsea Guest as Martha Cratchit and
as Mrs. Dill, August Nye as Peter Cratchit, Abby McKee as Bobbi Cratchit, Lydia Folckomer
as Belinda Cratchit, Zoe Shields as Ignorance, Sonia Arnold as Miss Grub, Lyn French
O'Hare as Joe, Shelby Barton as Graves and Emily Shields as Gena, Fred's Maid.

The Ensemble (School Children, Carolers, Beggars and Dancers) included Abby Bishop,
Olivia Bishop, Elly Leidner, Zoe Shields, Oliver Shields, Taylor Burton, Sarah Shields, Emily
Shields, and Lynsy Folckomer.

Josh Carter skillfully provided wonderful mandolin accompaniment to the Fezziwig Dancers.

One of the changes in Elwell's adaptation, is that the final encounter between Scrooge and
Bob Cratchit takes place in the Cratchit home rather than in Scrooge's Counting House.  This
takes a little adjustment for us traditionalists, but nevertheless the salient message of
Dickens'
A Christmas Carol comes through loud and clear in this production.  

I urge you to get tickets now as I expect the demand for tickets for this show to be quite keen.  
Performances are Friday, December 21st at 8 p.m., Saturday, December 22nd at
3 p.m. and Sunday, December 23rd at 3 p.m.  All performances are at the Morrison
Playhouse, Porter Center, Brevard College campus.  Reservations may be made by calling
828-884-2587.

Photo published with this review .....
Scan of Published Review