You may have seen it far too many times, but when Dickens’s timeless novela about a dark night of the soul during the holidays is done right, it can still move you, bringing tears to your eyes. Such is the case with CTGLA’s masterful interpretation of A Christmas Carol playing at the Ahmanson, and headlined by the brilliant nuanced, Emmy-Award winning actor, Bradley Whitford (Get Out, The West Wing) as Ebenezer Scrooge.
This production is adapted by Jack Thorne (Enola Holmes, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and if you haven’t already seen it, please do — National Treasure on Hulu), and directed with a humorous South California twist by Thomas Caruso (the Associate Director to Matthew Warchus on Broadway where it won five Tony Awards). They are joined by Rob Howell who has provided the exquisite sets, and lighting by Hugh Vanstone whose canopy of moody lanterns overhead made the audience feel as if they were sitting in Scrooge’s living room in 19th century England. The Ahmanson, which had been dark through the pandemic, was the ideal venue for this production, providing the space and levels in which to situate various parts of the performance, and the acoustics for crystal clear sound.
All of it would amount to little without the exceptional talent of Whitford as Scrooge, of course. His Scrooge is not just a miserly old curmudgeon, but a complex and deeply wounded child who reveals a painful past and compels us to reconsider his flaws. Sympathy and generosity for the less fortunate are admirable traits, but what about ambition and discipline and self-reliance? Of course, this being the Victorian morality tale that it is, Scrooge is visited upon by the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Past (played with aplomb by Kate Burton (Unfaithful, The Ice Storm) and a sassy Alex Newell — whose dance music EP, Power from 2016 is a treat!) whereupon he achieves a catharsis, turning into the virtual patron saint of Christmas. Among the ghosts of his past are his cruel father (Chris Hoch) and the lost love of his life, Bell (Sarah Hunt), and even the younger Ebenezer (Harry Thornton) — all helping us understand how a person is a mosaic of the people and experiences he’s encountered.
The opening night performance, which brought the audience to a rapturous standing ovation, was made extra special by an unexpected tribute to the late Stephen Sondheim with a wordless rendition of Silent Night on bells.
–– G. Dhalla
A Christmas Carol is playing at CTGLA – Ahmanson Theater through January 1st. Tickets HERE.