‘A Christmas Carol’ Provides Dose of Cheer

Even the pandemic isn’t able to stop A Christmas Carol which is currently available to stream from the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Just when it seemed the pandemic was about to steal Omaha’s annual holiday tradition, Kimberly Faith Hickman was able to give the city one final gift before she steps down as the artistic director of the OCP.  In conjunction with Geoffrey Jones, son of former artistic director Charles Jones, Faith Hickman was able to rewrite the elder Jones’ adaptation of Charles Dickens’ timeless Christmas ghost story.  Slimming down the cast from 40 to 8 and filming one performance for streaming, Faith Hickman was able to mount a version of A Christmas Carol that maintains the charm and cheer of OCP’s traditional, full strength version.

The production was directed by both Kimberly Faith Hickman and Ablan Roblin who did an admirable job of staging the production.  The 8 performers are always well placed on stage and the performers are so animated that one almost doesn’t notice the extremely subtle use of social distancing throughout the production.  Faith Hickman and Roblin have also coaxed solid performances out of their cast, though the pace could have used some quickening and the cue pickups could have been snappier at some points.  I also enjoyed the realism both directors applied to the production as they tamped down some of the show’s historically over the top moments.

Slimming the cast placed an extra burden on their shoulders as they had to play many multiple roles in order to properly tell this story and they do so fairly effectively and sometimes quite sublimely.  Some fine moments of the show include Jonathan Berger’s magisterial and effervescent Ghost of Christmas Present; Brandon Fisher’s genuinely good hearted Fred; Serena Johnson’s angelic Ghost of Christmas Past; Megan Kelly’s skittish rendition of Mrs. Dilber; and Brinlee Roeder and Dominic Torres provide some levity as the various children. 

But I’d like to cite Josh Peyton’s acting range for his disparate portrayals of the kindly and put upon Bob Cratchit and his supernatural Jacob Marley.  His Marley was especially impressive as he had an otherworldly quality and his voice was tinged with a menace and authority certain to put the fear of God into Scrooge’s heart.

Even after a decade and a half, Jerry Longe is still able to find ways to make his take on Ebenezer Scrooge fresh and original.  Longe underplayed the tar out of Scrooge and I loved it.  That underplaying made his Scrooge ice, ice cold and clearly a man who needed salvation.  And you could see the iciness of his heart get chipped away bit by bit as he slowly came to understand that he was a real scoundrel.  As much as I enjoyed his performance, there were a few moments when his reactions didn’t quite suit the moment.

Jim Othuse utilized a less is more set for this particular version of A Christmas Carol.  A beautiful backdrop became London at Christmas and just a few set pieces (a bed, a fireplace, a streetlamp) managed to become the various locales of the play.  Lindsay Pape’s Victorian costumes transport the viewer to the proper time and place.  John Gibilisco added some nice effects to the voices of the ghosts to give them that phantasmagorical presence.  Jim Boggess and Anita Clark Jaynes do the work of an entire orchestra in performing the show’s full contingent of Christmas carols.

I salute OCP in managing to preserve its 45 year tradition and bring a little Christmas at a point where we could use a little joy.  Take a moment and enjoy some Christmas cheer with your family and make an evening of A Christmas Carol in the comfort of your home.

A Christmas Carol is available for streaming from the Omaha Community Playhouse at https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/43126  until January 3.  Rental prices begin at $40.

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