December 6, 2022
Review: Trinity's Longstanding 'A Christmas Carol' Gets a Fresh Treatment
Will Demers READ TIME: 2 MIN.
The beginning of November means a return of a Rhode Island tradition: Trinity Rep's latest version of “A Christmas Carol.” It has been part of the yearly lineup for over 40 years, always changing, ever a new experience for audiences but promising an entertaining night of theater, and this year is no different, giving another fresh take on Dickens' perennial classic tale.
Company members Phyllis Kay (Scrooge,) Angela Brazil (Ghost of Christmas Present/Old Jo,) and Rachel Warren (Marley) lead a fabulously diverse cast this year that includes two newcomers: Luis Rivera Figueroa as Bob Cratchit, and Jeff Ararat as Pop/Topper, both of whom make welcome additions. Jihan Haddad plays Mrs. Cratchit/Becky returns after appearing in “Fade” and “Sueno.” Musician/actor Gunnar Manchester (Fred, Scrooge's nephew) returns as well, having appeared in past productions of “Carol” as well as “Tiny Beautiful Things” and “Ironbound” at the Gamm.
Jenny Nguyen Nelson brings a delightfully funny performance as Ghost of Christmas Past and, later, as a future dinner entree (I won't spoil that for you, but it's hysterical). Nor does Brazil's animated turn as Christmas Present disappoint. Dereks Thomas also return here as Fred's husband (a modern twist on Dickins) after having appeared in two August Wilson classics here at Trinity, “Gem of the Ocean” and “Radio Golf,” and he's excellent. Rounding out the cast are Michael Hisamoto (Holly/Solicitor for the poor/Wei), Claire Koenig (Mrs. Dilber/Adult Fan/Juniper) and Jenna Lee Scott (Daughter/Schoolteacher/Mrs. Rei/Barb), who appeared in “Things” last season.
Aileen Wen McGroddy directs and wrote the adaptation, and, for the first time in years, brings us a female Scrooge, which is deftly handled by Kay in a fantastic performance; she brings nuance to the irascible miser. Musical director Andrew Smithson (“Carol,” “Ragtime”) returns to bring much more holiday magic in a production that leans a bit more heavily into musical numbers this year, plus some fabulous oversized chimes that are truly a highlight. Tatiana Kahvegian's set design is a stripped-down affair, but it provides a vast playground for the actors and an amazing reveal at the conclusion which will thrust you into the spirit of Christmas immediately.
If there's one thing that one can say about Trinity's holiday production, it's always fresh, always taking chances and bringing us a memorable classic with a twist, and this year is certainly no different. Pack up the family and join the rest of Rhode Island and make some grand memories in a fun night of theater. This “Carol” is brimming with visuals, songs and Christmas cheer.
“A Christmas Carol” is running through January 1st at the Trinity Repertory Company 201 Washington Street, Providence, RI 02909. For information or tickets call 401-351-4242 or visit www.trinityrep.com.