The Hale Centre Theatre, just halfway through its steeped-in-tradition production of Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol,' is musical director Lincoln Wright's second home this holiday season. Wright took time between back to back performances yesterday to talk about his many roles with this selling-out, brightly polished community theatre company.
Under the velvet Victorian top hat of cast member Fezziwig is how the audience first meets Wright. Because it's theatre in the round, some are lucky enough to sit inches from where he is staged in the opening carol. Though the ensemble blend is lovely, the ears nearest Wright's cashmere-draped tones are immediately piqued for more of his singular voice. And they soon get it. In the second verse of 'Candlelight Carol,' Wright's solo beams with the warmth of a slow-burning flame.
"That's ['Candlelight Carol'] the only number that isn't a traditional carol from the Victorian era," said Wright of the John Rutter composition, speaking as the show's musical director. While he's partial to the Rutter tune, it's the "agelessness and timelessness" of the traditional 'Lo How a Rose E'er Blooming' or 'Holly and the Ivy' or the many others, that he most celebrates.
"When I see the connection that the old music makes with today's audience, what it conveys about Christmas still today...," he mused and drifted off for a moment, then shook his head slowly, "I love that."
In addition to coaching all of the music and playing the Fezziwig role in this show that projects impressive holographic ghosts, propels possessed chairs across the stage, and billows in heavy, hanging, frosty fog, Wright is also cast as Coal Vendor and the creepy Undertaker.
"I've learned to love coming out as the Undertaker," said Wright with a self-conscious grin. "I'm a pretty introverted person," he admitted. "It was a challenge to figure out how to participate in a scene nonverbally." Maybe that nonverbal part, along with the lurking and the thin-lipped twisted smile, is what makes the audience's skin crawl.
A good share of the show's narration and dialogue is lifted directly out of Dickens' famous novel of the same name. Between the period set pieces, the Dickensian turns of phrase and the carols 'of olde,' the show is a wonderfully time-transporting piece of Christmas nostalgia. It continues to run through Christmas Eve day.
Early in the show, Jacob Marley's ghost intones, "I wear the chain I forged in life.... of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. In keeping, Lincoln Wright can wear proudly the hats he is doffing in Hale Centre's 'A Christmas Carol.' God bless them, every one.
Also recommended by this Examiner performing arts writer:
Arts Blast: 'Nutcracker' ballet soldiers on in Mesa this weekend / Maestro Christie: Master Christmas storyteller of Handel's Messiah in Mesa / Magic abounds in Mesa's 'Beauty' / Khris's Christmas Jazz swings into Mesa theater / EVITA National Tour star brings 'Another Suitcase' home to Gammage Hall / Jazz offspring Amanda Brecker finding her own voice at Tempe Center for the Arts / Zuill Bailey puts solo cello Bach Suites to rest in Mesa