A.C.T.’s yearly production of A Christmas Carol might just be the perfect holiday show. Moving, exciting and family-friendly, the show delivers holiday magic year after year. But after 17 years of the same script and staging, 2023 will be the last year of this production.
Don’t worry, a new version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol will debut next year, but this is your last chance to see the show in its current incarnation. If you’ve never seen this production, run don't walk to the Toni Rembe Theater to buy your tickets.
I’ve seen a lot of productions of A Christmas Carol over the years, and this one never fails to impress. Among its many great qualities, the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come stands out. Perhaps my favorite iteration of the story’s final specter, this production uses a stage-sized puppet to represent the eerie figure. Paired with impeccable sound design, the ghost perfectly captures the dread of the final ghost that finally convinces Scrooge’s reformation.
Speaking of Scrooge, James Carpenter returns for another spectacular year playing Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s on par with iconic actors of the role like Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart. He’s convincing at the beginning of the show as a penny-pinching miser clutching his moneybox to his chest and continues to be so as his heart thaws. You slowly see the transformation in his expressions and movements.
The rest of the cast, full of local children and award-winning actors, is delightful as always. One performance that particularly shone this year was that of Sharon Lockwood playing both Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper, and Mrs. Fezziwig. Particularly as Mrs. Dilber, Lockwood brings comedy and depth to this character who might be easy to forget if not for her boisterous performance. She has a hilarious collection of lines early on in the show that could be misused to mock Scrooge, but instead her performance doesn't let you forget how much of a jerk Scrooge is at this point in the story.
Another stand-out performance comes from James Mercer II. Who brought joviality to the role of Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, without tipping the part into a caricature. I think this is one of the more challenging roles in the story purely because the character’s motivations are never made entirely clear. Fred keeps inviting his uncle to Christmas despite the invitation never being accepted. Scrooge yells at him, spews insults and yet when Scrooge shows up at his door less than 24 hours later, Fred is genuinely delighted to see him. Mercer plays the role with a happiness and gravity that lets the audience see that he knows exactly what he’s setting himself up for and decides to be kind anyway.
Perfectly balancing the haunting ghost story with holiday cheer, this play should be a December staple for any Bay Area theatergoer.
A Christmas Carol
Adapted by Care Perloff and Paul Walsh, based on the novel by Charles Dickens
Music by Karl Lundeberg
Through: December 24, 2023
Where: Toni Rembe Theater, 415 Geary Street, San Francisco
Running time: 2 hours, one intermission