By Fran Syverson
Charles Dickens would most likely be enchanted if he could be transported to see his “A Christmas Carol” now at A Noise Within in Pasadena. The old traditional tale is offered with fresh un-traditional éclat. So, although Dickens can’t be here, happily—we can!
We all know by heart this classic story of redemption. Miserly Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future who take him to view his life as it was, is and will be. But how it is presented at A Noise Within is what makes this version a must-see.
Stark barren trees are silhouetted in the opening scene. Slate gray coloring predominates as several actors glide onto the stage, moving as if in a quietly rhythmic ballet. In a setting by Jeanine A. Ringer, props are minimal, and seamlessly moved on- and off-stage by actors.
Crotchety Scrooge stomps up to his second-floor office where, shortly, his work is interrupted by a visit from his nephew. A warm, upbeat Fred (Rafael Goldstein) invites his uncle to Christmas dinner, and is promptly rebuffed with one of Scrooge’s many “Bah! Humbug!” utterances. No Christmas cheer from him!
Grudgingly, Scrooge allows his clerk, Bob Cratchit (portrayed meekly by Stephen Rockwell) a day off to spend with his wife and children. Scrooge, once home and ready for bed, is startled—no, terrified!—when Jacob Marley, his long-dead business partner, arrives amidst the clanking of chains. Mitchell Edmonds is a fearsome ghost wandering the afterlife, here to warn Scrooge about the compassionless life he is leading. Three spirits will visit him, Scrooge is told. Thus begins an eerie night, with Geoff Elliott as Scrooge deftly conveying fear, poignancy, exuberance, sadness…all prompted by the many glimpses of his life provided by those spirits.
And they do. Deborah Strang flounces in as Christmas Past, garbed in a fluffy white gown. With her, Scrooge revisits his lonely childhood and youth. A tall and imposing Christmas Present is Alan Blumenfeld, camouflaged in a robe creatively covered with colorful fruits. They peek in on Fred’s dinner party, so rudely declined by Scrooge. And Christmas Future emerges as a tree, totally obscuring Kevin Rico Angulo, as visions unfold of grim events to come.
As narrator, Robertson Dean opens the show and segues nicely between scenes. Ego Plum composed music especially for the performances at A Noise Within.
Geoff Elliott, in addition to playing Scrooge, co-directs with his wife Julia Rodriguez-Elliott. Most of the 20 cast members play multiple roles. They include Jill Hill, Alison Elliott, Diana Gonzalez-Morett, Brendan Haley, Georgia Miller, Jack Elliott, Marie Sullivan, Abigail Marks, Megan Farber, James Ferrero and Jennifer Propper. Everyone’s darling, Tiny Tim, (“God bless us, every one!”) is played by Damaso J. Rodriguez.
The repertory cast has performed “A Christmas Carol” twice before in other local venues. Several on the current roster were among them, but not necessarily in the same roles. As they said during the post-show conversation we attended, they are especially thrilled to be playing it in what is now their own home theater. (Other post-show conversations will be held on Fridays, Dec. 14 and 21, after the 8 p.m. shows. They are worth lingering another half-hour or so.)
“A Christmas Carol” will continue at A Noise Within through Dec. 23. Curtain times are 8 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays, 2 & 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and 2 & 7 p.m. on Sundays. An ASL interpreted performance will be Fri., Dec. 21 at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $40-$52. Contact the box office in person, via phone at 626-356-3100, or online at www.anoisewithin.org for updated pricing and seating availability.
A Noise Within is located at 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Free parking is available in the Metro station which can be accessed off Halstead or from the Sierra Madre Villa off ramp of the 210 Foothill Freeway.