By PAM HARBAUGH
The resonance of redemption thrills in Melbourne Civic Theatre’s theatrical production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol.”
Tom Mula’s play, directed by Peg Girard, designed by an artistic staff and brought to life by four actors at the top of their game, is an excellent example of the power of story theater. In it, the actors slip into third person narrative and then in and out of multiple characters to bring to life Charles Dickens’ moving story of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s reclamation.
However, this time, the story is told through the point of view of Jacob Marley’s burdened spirit desperate for salvation. Given a day to turn Scrooge’s Bah Humbug into a Hallelujah, and aided by an annoying sprite named The Bogle, Marley sets out to make that happen.
The theatrics in this production are wonderful, lifting your own childlike spirit into pure joy as the story unfolds. Dressed in black Victorian garb, actors move around a configuration of black platforms set against a black backdrop, all allowing for suggesting a wide range of locales — from purgatory and hell, to a wintry English countryside and London streets. Alan Selby’s masterful lighting paints tight, eerie spots while leaving the rest of the stage area floating in blackness.
Wendy Reader’s first-rate sound design evokes a plethora of locations and moods, all folding into each other and becoming as palpable as a fifth member of the acting ensemble.
This stripped down approach lends a perfect path for some thrilling performances.
Terrence Girard brings a wide range of deep emotion in his portrayal of Scrooge. It is quite impossible to avoid tearing up when, finally reclaimed, Scrooge falls to his knees and sobbing in gratitude,
Adrian Cahill commands the stage marvelously as Marley. We feel his yearning, his frustration, his joy and pain as we go through some of Marley’s history. At one point he makes us laugh, then another minute we cry openly as Marley’s eyes are opened to the connected-ness of all human kind.
You’ve never seen Mark Blackledge as you do in this production. The intense physicality in his many characters he plays in this show is an immensely delightful. Michael Thompson brings a smart, multi-faceted quality to The Bogle, making him devilish but thoroughly adorable while entreating Marley to keep trying no matter how dismal events may seem.
This is rich theater and a moving experience for the holiday season. Be sure to make time to experience it. It will make you laugh, make you cry and, in the end, make you feel so very good indeed.
This review is of a dress rehearsal. The show opens Friday, Dec. 4.
To see a video, click here.
SIDE O’ GRITS: “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 24 at Melbourne Civic Theatre, 817 E. Strawbridge Ave., Melbourne. Curtain is 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $25 for all. Handling charges may apply. Call 321-723-6935 or visit MyMCT.org.