Snow's falling, decorations twinkle along State Street, and A Christmas Carol is playing at Overture Center's Capitol Theater. All's right with our holiday world.
After a hiatus, CTM Madison Family Theatre ignites a comeback with Romulus Linney's adaptation of Charles Dickens' durable 19th-century classic (through Dec. 10) that thoroughly fulfills traditional expectations. There's the colorful bustle of London street scenes, swirling fog, growling ghostly apparitions, ragged but charming pint-size orphan carolers, and plenty of Bah, Humbug!
Robert Spencer is director Roseann Sheridan's happy choice for the role of miserly old Ebenezer Scrooge, the holiday-hating curmudgeon who experiences a dazzling transformation after spectral visits to his past, present and possibly deadly future. Spencer plays Scrooge with a light comic touch, and by final curtain he's lost his arthritic shuffle and prances about on tippy-toe.
The Capitol's large stage lacks the intimacy of the old Isthmus Playhouse, but scenic designer Nayna Ramey makes clever use of airy architectural elements to suggest entire sets, while Matthew Kerr's imaginative lighting creates celestial flight. Choreographer Robin Fonfara fills the musical party scenes with shimmering costumed commotion that smoothly resolves to merry dancers.
This is a large and polished cast, and many are actors familiar to Madison audiences. Gregory Reed is a dapper, cheery nephew Fred; Carl Cawthorne is an ebullient Mr. Fezziwig; Scott Haden plays long-suffering Bob Cratchit; Craig Jacobsen evokes the robed and wreathed Spirit of Christmas Present; and diminutive Jemima Liposcak manages to be both perky and pathetic as Tiny Tim. Frankie Pobar Lay's performance as Boy Scrooge is very good indeed.
Dickens' writing often included heavy doses of tragic sentimentality (even in his own time he was criticized for what was termed "an indecent assault on the emotions"). So there's hardly the need to out-Dickens Dickens in today's adaptation by giving poor Tiny Tim what looks like a 10-pound leg brace plus a withered hand. That sad little crutch is quite enough. And does Boy Scrooge really need to spend his Christmas vacation doing arithmetic for eight hours a day? It's already grim that he's left alone at boarding school until rescued by Fan (the winsome Hanna Edwardsen in this production). These are insertions that struck this traditionalist as being a bit over the top.
These quibbles aside, the CTM's Christmas Carol is a delightful seasonal treat. Welcome back!