Successful productions of "A Christmas Carol" are never about the play's destination, but about the journey of a certain character that still has the capacity to inspire us.
The thoughtful adaptation that the Sacramento Theatre Company has used for the past 25 years was created by Sacramento playwright Richard Hellesen and the late composer and actor David de Berry, who adapted the songs. Under the direction of the late director Dennis Bigelow, they created a play that is more true to the Dickens original than most.
Dickens did not sentimentalize the poverty and hardship he saw around him, and that setting was an important part of his story's effectiveness. Similarly, this adaptation makes clear the conditions many people young and old worked under and shows just how marginalized the working class in England was. Dickens' Ebenezer Scrooge is one of the more well-off in his community, and his transformation into someone wanting to share his means with the less fortunate holds a resonance that is unmistakable today.
For the past several years, STC has smartly relied on Matt K. Miller to do most of the heavy lifting, and the resourceful actor's Scrooge has not disappointed. The new production doubles down on the Miller factor by employing his young son, Max, as half of their rotating Tiny Tim tandem (Liam Nevin will also play the role). Michael Jenkinson is a welcome newcomer as an effectively sensitive Bob Cratchit, and he shares a warm bond with Lindsay Grimes as his wife. Jenkinson also handled the celebratory choreography.
Jerry Lee humanizes the ghost of Jacob Marley in a way that makes the character's warnings to Scrooge immediate and personal. Michael RJ Campbell brightly reprises his ebullient roles as both the Ghost of Christmas Present and Fezziwig, the Christmas party-giver. Meg Odell has two graceful turns as Belle, Ebenezer's lost love, and the dutiful young Martha Cratchit (Abbey Williams-Campbell also plays the roles).
Director Michael Laun has stacked the production with members of the STC Young Professionals Company and the students offer enthusiastic, poised support throughout the show.
A Christmas Carol
★ ★ ★
What: The Sacramento Theatre Company's 25th anniversary production of the Charles Dickens story
When: Continues at 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays and Dec. 23; matinees at 12:30 p.m. Thursdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, through Dec. 23
Tickets: $37 general, $32 seniors, $17 students. 1419 H St., Sacramento
Information: (916) 443-6722, www.sactheatre.org
Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes, including one intermission