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“A Christmas Carol” renews Christmas spirit at Denver Center

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A Christmas Carol at the Denver Performing Arts Complex

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Sometimes the best way to review an event is to describe its effects. If you have somehow lost or misplaced your Christmas spirit this season, you need to see the Denver Center Theatre Company’s performance of A Christmas Carol at the Stage Theatre.

This musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, written for the stage by Richard Hellesen and featuring music by David de Berry, draws the audience into the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, whose foul disposition (especially where Christmas is concerned) is transformed as he is haunted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The Denver Center stage production enhances the experience with an open-stage presentation featuring fog and strobe-light effects, on-the-fly set changes in real time, and a lively cast ensemble that doubles as musical chorus and collective narrator.

While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is at heart a brooding ghost story, adaptations for stage and screen can lean either toward dark-and-scary and heartwarming/jovial. This production definitely leans toward the latter. Scrooge (performed by Philip Pleasants) is played as grumpy but somehow endearing--even comical--and the play’s scarier moments are kept brief and toned down for family audiences. Even the story’s darkest character, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, is kept mainly in the shadows, and the segment is kept brief so as not to over-traumatize the audience’s younger members. And of course, the play’s joyful climax all but erases the story’s scarier moments.

Despite the production’s toned-down approach, the overall message of the Dickens story, namely, the rediscovery of the true meaning and spirit of Christmas, comes through loud and clear—most notably in moments like the party at Fezziwig’s, Bob Cratchit’s Christmas toast with his family, and of course from the transformed Ebenezer Scrooge himself as he enacts his change of heart at the end. Throughout the production, the musical numbers (combining adapted classic Christmas carols with original songs) are well choreographed and solidly performed by the cast and ensemble, building to an emotional climax that, in the performance I viewed, brought the audience to their feet.

There’s a reason Dickens’ story has become such a timeless classic, and that is because the message itself is timeless. The Denver Center Theatre Company’s rendition of it will warm your heart and renew your Christmas spirit, making it well worth the ticket price. A Christmas Carol runs through December 29 at The Stage Theatre of the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Tickets are available through the box office or online, and gauging from ticket sales currently, you should buy yours sooner rather than later.

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