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Theater Review: "A Christmas Carol" At A Noise Within

Sara Itkis |
December 13, 2012 | 1:30 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter


Geoff Elliott and Deborah Strang tell the classic Dickens tale. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Geoff Elliott and Deborah Strang tell the classic Dickens tale. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
Ladies and gentlemen—’tis the season! ‘Tis the season to be jolly, and A Noise Within is not about to deny us our merriment. From the start to the joyful end, "A Christmas Carol" follows the Dickens tradition in celebrating the spirit of the holiday. Adapted and directed by, and starring Geoff Elliott, the play runs for fast-paced 90 minutes with no intermission. While original in its costumes and set, it embraces the well-loved classic story, and stays true to its message. Whether this furthers the story's enjoyment, or overwhelms with an overdose of saccharinity, is up to the viewer to decide. 

For those unfamiliar with the famed story: Ebenezer Scrooge (Geoff Elliott) is a cold miser, defying the spirit of Christmas and turning his back upon his fellow man. As the holiday season gets into full swing, Scrooge is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past (Deborah Strang), Present (Alan Blumenfeld), and Future (Kevin Rico Angulo), and is shown the error of his ways. While everything about the story and attitude is traditional, both the set and costumes give a unique edge to A Noise Within’s production. For the most part, the costumes (designed by Angela Balogh Calin) are in the expected period style. However, with the creative license which their fantastical natures encourage, the ghosts present several pleasant surprises. Their delightful costumes are not only original, but they also incorporate the technological advances that the theater offers. Combined with the charming score and creative sound design by Ego Plum, these elements lend the show an extra spark of magic. 

The set, designed by Jeanine A. Ringer, does the same. Starting with a less-is-more approach, it remains mostly bare, excepting one or two large items in every scene, which are replaced smoothly and without slowing the transitions. Meanwhile, the backdrop is lit (by lighting designer Ken Booth) with a pleasant blue-purple palette. As the show continues, the set decor and backdrop grow more complex, but the abstract simplicity remains. 

The Cratchit family. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
The Cratchit family. Photo by Craig Schwartz.
In contrast with the surprising set and costumes, the members of the cast perform their roles exactly as expected. Elliott appears comically evil-looking as Scrooge; Tiny Tim (Damasco J. Rodriguez) is breathtakingly adorable; Blumenfeld, as the Ghost of Christmas Present (among others), booms away with his rich voice. However, while the audience is probably familiar with the plot, the characters appear to be in on it too. Scrooge makes his imminent transformation clear far too early, as though he knows it’s coming and jumps ahead. The actors fit so readily into their predictable characters that their performances are uninteresting and have little emotional impact. Also, be warned: there will be spontaneous singing. 

Normally, a play like "A Christmas Carol" would be met with cynicism and condescension. However, considering the jolliness of the season and the familiarity of the holiday classic, it is easy to brush off the production's flaws and enjoy it for what it is: a joyful embrace of traditional Christmas values and atmosphere. As Tiny Tim would say, "God bless us, every one!"

Reach reporter Sara Itkis here. 

"A Christmas Carol" is playing at A Noise Within (3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107) through December 23, 2012. Tickets are $42-$50. More information can be found at ANoiseWithin.Org.



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