4.4 Hot 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live!'s production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an ultimate treat that rejoices with the festivities of the Season and retells the timeless story of a Dickensian caricature's journey to transformation. This one pays homage to Dickens' original intent of cheerful exaggeration and macabre, without dismissing a more contemporary take for newer audiences.
When Dickens first published his story about a man who once “hated Christmas,” it came with an original intent to dismiss the festive delights that go along with the Yultide Season. His novella, was originally written under the guise of a “ghost story,” rather than a run-of-the-mill Christmas tale. As a matter of fact, he even made it clear with his title by calling it, A CHRISTMAS CAROL IN PROSE – A GHOST STORY OF CHRISTMAS.
But as generations of readers went by, Dickens’ literary intent slowly evolved into something quite different from how it was originally perceived. A CHRISTMAS CAROL became a Yuletide must-read, and most of its adaptations dismissed the author’s unorthodoxed take on a Christmas story.
And it isn’t all that bad. After all, more readers and young children got to read and listen to the adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, and see how he how a man can be completely transformed overnight.
But as 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live! relive Dickens’ imaginatively macabre Christmas tale, they pursued the novella’s original genre of horror and adventure. Through Alan Menken and Lynn Ahren’s musical adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Scrooge’s archetypal journey into the other side has once again taken the same path, which its author originally intended.
Dickens would have loved to see this retelling.
Ebenezer Scrooge is as icy as December snow. He loves his money, and hates everyone else. His poor office clerk, Mr. Cratchit, bears his employer’s hostility day after day. But one Christmas Eve, Scrooge is about to get a visit from four different ghosts; each bearing a promise of a dark future if he doesn’t change.
Though there have been quite a few adaptations and re-stagings of A CHRISTMAS CAROL, this one makes sure that it hits the nerve. Director Robbie Guevara sketches a London town through an encompassing set design and enchanting scenography by Mio Infante. I have to admit, this design surpasses my expectations, and Guevara splendidly visualized our imaginations to present Scrooge’s journey.
GA Fallarme paints the encompassing sets with vividly magical projections, setting the mood while frightening the audiences once in a while. Daniel Bartolome vigorously conducts the 9PO Orchestra, giving Menken’s music with just the right amount of suspense and occasional glee. Also, PJ Rebullida and Yek Barlongay’s choreography offers an array of world dance and vibrant glee, presenting each number with its needed mood and pace; enhancing the score and strengthening each scene.
Theater veteran Miguel Faustmann returns to Dickens’ world with a much more sinister Scrooge. Here, he reprises Ebenezer with a fresher hint of malice and menacing hostility. Faustmann as Scrooge never leaves the vast Infante stage, that he soon becomes the center of each veiled spectacle of a dream.
Dickens’ tale wouldn’t be complete without its ghosts, and this production brags a incredible foursome of local talents who take Scrooge to his mystical journey.
Ariel Reonal proves his alluring presence on stage as Scrooge’s long-deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. How he balefully warns his old friend through his song, LINK BY LINK, is undeniably a fun and scary watch. Norby David has incredibly developed as a singer-actor for the professional stage. His Ghost of Christmas Past maintains the alluring innocence of its original characterization, but still doesn’t dismiss a silent indifference towards a man like Scrooge. Franz Imperial as The Ghost of Christmas Present is an absolute sensation! His lone number, ABUNDANCE AND CHARITY, explodes with current cheers and echoes missed opportunities for Ebenezer. Miss Saigon alumni, Ela Lisondra is the mysteriously esoteric Ghost of Christmas Yet To Be. Lisondra dances with abstruse impenetrability and muted mystery, harrowing Scrooge’s possible future is he doesn’t change his ways.
This production appears to be 9 Work Theatrical’s biggest ensemble to date, and they manage to make the most out of the bunch. Just to name a few, Raul Montesa offers a charming father and a loyal employee as Bob Cratchit. Jun Ofrasio and Dawn Eduave as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig is delightful sight in FEZZWIG’S ANNUAL CHRISTMAS BALL. Al Gatmaitan plays the Young Ebenezer with an appealing confidence and character. Nel Gomez as Scrooge’s nephew, Fred Anderson, pars with the rest of the ensemble’s considerable energy.
Worthy to mention too, are the theater comebacks of some theater actors from 9 Works Theatrical’s management team. Company Manager, Anna Santamaria, plays the doting housewife and mother to Bob as Mrs. Cratchit. Here, Santamaria returns to the stage with enthusiasm, making it a rare treat to see her in a costume and in character. 9WT’s Marketing Manager, GM Hernandez takes the role of Mr. Smythe. PR and Publicity Manager, Jonjon Martin plays Harry with remarkable presence.
Dickens’ stories usually center on templated heroes and heroines, which he surrounds with satiric characters (consider: GREAT EXPECTATIONS and OLIVER TWIST). But in A CHRISTMAS CAROL, he did the opposite. Here, he used a satiric character as his center and surrounded him with array of heroes and heroines — making the narrative seemingly paradoxical, yet extremely imaginative.
But what makes A CHRISTMAS CAROL an extraordinary Dickensian work is the overt musicality in its form and theme. See, Dickens intentionally divided each of his chapters into 5 separate staves (def: a set of five horizontal lines and four spaces that each represent a different musical pitch). In the novella, each ‘stave’ narrates Scrooge’s eventual move to his transformation.
As Scrooge journeys from one ghost to another, we travel through Dickens’ varying staves. In its musicality and form, it is no wonder why he calls this a “Carol.” As each stave offer a different musical pitch, each of Scrooge’s stops offer him newer perspectives; and we change with him as we go along.
Because this is how Dickens perceived Christmas. For him, this season is more than just sharing and receiving. A CHRISTMAS CAROL also silently croons about the need to change for the better. With each Ghost’s tale functioning as parable, more than an allegory, his work brings to the table the virtues that are associated with Christmas — generosity, kindness and the genuine love for others (Guerin, 2012).
To sum it all up, 9 Works Theatrical and Globe Live!’s production of A CHRISTMAS CAROL is an ultimate treat that rejoices with the festivities of the Season and retells the timeless story of a Dickensian caricature’s journey to transformation. This one pays homage to Dickens’ original intent of cheerful exaggeration and macabre, without dismissing a more contemporary take for newer audiences.