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Posts Tagged ‘repertory theatre of st louis’

Heisenberg
by Simon Stephens
Directed by Steven Woolf
Repertory Theatre of St.Louis, Studio
October 27, 2017

Joneal Joplin, Susan Louise O’Connor
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep is opening its Studio season with a much talked-about two-character play called Heisenberg. It’s a short play, running at just under an hour and a half, and the focus is much more on character than on the plot. It’s a clever, somewhat unpredictable script that serves as a great showcase for its two excellent lead performers.

The title of this play isn’t referenced in the story itself, but it’s one a lot of people will be familiar with, even if they aren’t well-versed in physics. Although associated with a particular scientific concept, one doesn’t really have to know anything about physics to get the gist of this title. Essentially, the first word most people associate with the name Heisenberg is “uncertainty”, and in this play, that’s the general idea. Life is uncertain, and people are uncertain, and we don’t even know how much time we have with the people who come into our lives. The story follows the quirky relationship of two very different people, the 40-something American expat Georgie (Susan Louise O’Connor) and 75-year-old Irish-born butcher Alex (Joneal Joplin), who meet at a train station in London and eventually become more involved in one another’s lives, due largely to Georgie’s persistence. Over the course of their relatively short acquaintance (six weeks, according to director Steven Woolf’s note in the program), there are lies, misrepresentations, revelations, sudden decisions, and other surprises as we learn more about these two and the qualities that draw them together. There isn’t much else to say that doesn’t spoil too much, but the real focus here is on the relationship, as these two characters grow closer and show how their relationship and their interactions with the world around them and other important people in their lives shapes their present decisions, relationship, and character.

The set here is minimal. Designed by Peter and Margery Spack, it consists mainly of two long tables and some chairs, with video screens to help suggest the setting. Nathan W. Scheuer’s lighting and Rusty Wandall’s sound also contribute to the overall atmosphere here, which is more of a suggestion of settings than a concrete representation. Marci Franklin’s costumes are well-suited to the characters and their well-defined personalities.

And it’s those personalities that are the chief focus of this show, boldly embodied by the superb actors who bring them to life. Joplin does a great job of presenting Alex as a well-rounded character even early on, when he doesn’t speak as much and is largely reacting to Georgie. There’s so much communicated in Joplin’s mere looks and reactions, and as we find out more about him as the play progresses, Joplin continues to make these revelations fascinating, and his chemistry with O’Connor is wonderful. O’Connor is equally superb as the more outwardly expressive Georgie, although we soon learn that although she’s not as reserved as Alex, she has her own secrets. The contrast and dynamic between these two characters is really what makes the play so fascinating, and the performers here make the most of that relationship.

The play is fairly simple, plot-wise, even though its driven by a series of surprises, and the ending is somewhat abrupt. The point, I suppose, is that we never really know what to expect from life, so we might as well make the most of it while we are here. Here, that lesson is exemplified by two memorable characters in this witty, poignant play. This production, with it’s terrific leads and the assured direction of Steven Woolf, carries its message well. Life may be uncertain, but this play is certainly worth seeing.

Joneal Joplin, Susan Louise O’Connor
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting Heisenberg in its Studio Theatre until November 12, 2017.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Simon Stephens
Based on the Novel by Mark Haddon
Directed and Choreographed by Marcia Milgrom Dodge
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
September 8, 2017

Nick LaMedica and Cast
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time has been an elusive play for me. It was playing in London the last time I was there, and it was sold out. It was also playing in New York the last time I was there, and it was also sold out. I had read the book on which this play is based, and I’d heard great things about the stage version, but for some reason whenever I was in a position to see it, I wasn’t able to get a ticket. Now, fortunately, the Rep is opening its latest season with this play, finally giving me the opportunity to see it, and this show is definitely worth the wait. Cleverly staged and impeccably cast, this is a profoundly moving production.

If the title sounds like a Sherlock Holmes story, that’s no accident, because 15 year old Christopher Boone (Nick LaMedica) loves Sherlock Holmes stories, and when a mystery presents itself in the form of the death of a neighbor’s dog, Christopher is determined to solve that mystery. The mathematically gifted Christopher, who appears to be on the autism spectrum, lives in England with his father, Ed (Jimmy Kieffer) and goes to a “special school” which serves as the backdrop for much of the play’s action. His teacher, Siobhan (Kathleen Wise) encourages him as he writes a book about his discoveries in an investigation that leads him on an unusual path to an unexpected destination, and to some rather surprising revelations about his family and the people closest to him. On the way, we find out a lot about Christopher and how he sees the world and how he relates to those around him.

The staging of this production is apparently a lot different than it’s London and Broadway stagings, which featured more special effects. This production, designed for the Rep by Narelle Sissons, isn’t as high-tech but it’s still wondrous. It’s essentially Christopher’s classroom, but the walls are decorated with various words and mathematical symbols, and areas for Christopher to write and draw as he takes us along on his extremely personal adventure. There are various movable set pieces as well, and the ensemble also contributes to the set in inventive ways as Christopher’s self-appointed mission takes him to new places, from his own neighborhood to bustling London and back again. The costumes by Leon Wiebers and the stunning lighting by Matthew Richards also contribute to the full realization of Christopher’s world.

The show is dynamically staged, with a strong ensemble supporting the truly remarkable performance of LaMedica as Christopher. This is his story, and his world, and LaMedica inhabits the character and his world with energy, strength, and warmth that projects through his sometimes detached manner. Although the set, play structure, and production values do a lot in terms of bringing the audience into Christopher’s world, it’s LaMedica who most makes us care for this character. He navigates Christopher’s journey in a variety of emotions from cool detachment, to suspicion, to curiosity, to sheer joy when he’s solving complicated math problems. It’s a brilliant performance, ably supported by Kieffer as Christopher’s loving but weary and secretive father, Ed, by Wise as Christopher’s understanding and dedicated teacher, by Dale Hodges in various roles including a kindly neighbor of Christopher’s, and by Amy Blackman as Christopher’s mother, Judy. There’s also a strong ensemble playing various roles as needed, from teachers in Christopher’s school to neighbors and other people he meets in the course of the story.

This is a profoundly moving play. It’s cleverly staged and fast-moving, with a good balance of humor and drama. It’s a fascinating exploration of this one young man’s life and character, and his own approach to the challenges, relationships, and revelations he encounters. This is an excellent start to the Rep’s new season, and a truly riveting theatrical experience.

Nick LaMedica
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time until October 1, 2017.

 

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The Royale
by Marco Ramirez
Directed by Stuart Carden
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Studio
March 10. 2017

Bernard Gilbert, Lance Baker, Akron Lanier Watson
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Royale is an ambitious concept. It’s a story inspired by history, told in manner that resonates well for today’s audiences. The latest production at the Rep Studio, this is a dynamic, fascinating play that features fine production values and a fantastic cast. Telling a tale that’s in a way as timely today as it would have been 110 years ago, it’s a challenging and vibrantly staged piece of theatre.

The story of The Royale takes place at “some point between 1905 and 1910”, according to the program. It’s a tale inspired by the real-life story of boxer Jack Johnson, who became the first black World Heavyweight Champion. It’s a story that’s been told before on stage and on screen in the form of Howard Sackler’s The Great White Hope. Here, though, the format is different and much more stylized. The lead character here is called Jay “The Sport” Jefferson (Akron Lanier Watson), and the story follows him as he engages in a series of matches with other black fighters across the country, although his real aim is for a chance at the world Heavyweight title, held by the retired (and unseen) white boxer Bernard Bixby. As Jay wrangles with his promoter Max (Lance Baker) and befriends a talented opponent, Fish (Bernard Gilbert)–who becomes Jay’s sparring partner–the potential of a match with Bixby looms, along with all the implications of such a fight, especially if Jay wins. The impact of the match on the highly segregated society of the time is shown especially in the form of Jay’s relationship with his sister Nina (Bria Walker), who is proud of her brother but has serious reservations about the title fight. The story is told in a unique format, with the boxing matches often staged side-by-side instead of head-to-head, and with carefully staged movement and use of rhythmic body percussion choreographed by Stephanie Paul.  It’s an inventive construction that helps to keep the story moving with a great deal of dynamic energy.

This play depends a lot on its cast, and that’s its biggest strength. Watson brings a real sense of charisma and presence that is essential for the dynamic, iconoclastic Jay. His boasting and bravado, as well as his athletic prowess, are on clear display, and when the situation gets more challenging, his sense of conflict is clear. His scenes with Walker’s determined Nina are a highlight of the show, as are his scenes with the excellent Gilbert as the determined, ambitious Fish. There are also strong performances from Baker as Max and by Samuel Ray Gates as Jay’s trainer and friend, Wynton.  Maalik Shakoor and Jarris Williams round out the excellent ensemble of this well-choreographed, briskly staged play.

The more contemporary structure of the play actually works well in portraying the spirit and tone of the early 20th Century setting of the play. There’s also an excellent set by Brian Sidney Bembridge that basically puts the audience in the ring with the fighters, as well as strong atmospheric lighting also by Bembridge. Christine Pascual’s costumes are richly detailed and appropriate for the time and characters, from the boxing attire to Jay’s and Max’s stylish suits and Nina’s dress and hat. The only real misstep in terms of period accuracy is an odd anachronism I’m surprised hasn’t been caught already, in terms of radio. The characters keep talking about listening to events on the radio, when commercial broadcast radio didn’t exist until the 1920’s. Otherwise, the time, place and spirit of the production are well maintained, and the sense of drama is well-built in the structure, and especially in the thrilling climactic bout.

The Royale is a memorable production, and a fascinatingly inventive theatrical event. Theatre is a good venue for a sport like boxing, that can be theatrical in itself. Boxing also works as a fitting allegory for the struggle that Jay, his sister, and their contemporaries endured every day in a highly segregated and often brutal society. It’s a show with a message that still resonates now, because although times have changed,  events in the news show us that there’s still a lot of change needed. This is a strong production from the Rep Studio, closing out a first-rate season.

Akron Lanier Watson, Bria Walker
Photo by Jon Gitchoff
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting The Royale in its Studio Theatre until March 26, 2017.

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To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee, Adapted by Christopher Sergel
Directed by Risa Brainin
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
February 10, 2017

Cast of To Kill a Mockingbird Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Cast of To Kill a Mockingbird
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic work of American literature, to the point of becoming iconic. So many people have read the book in school or elsewhere, and the movie starring Gregory Peck is highly celebrated. There have also been several stage adaptations of this story, including the one currently on stage at the Rep. It’s a somewhat condensed, stylized representation of the story, augmented by some truly memorable music, and featuring some strong performances, capturing the spirit of this important and still timely story.

Like most adaptations of this story and true to the book, the story is narrated by Jean Louise Finch (Lenne Klingaman), who is on stage for the vast majority of the play.  She’s the older version of the play’s young protagonist, Scout (Kaylee Ryan), who lives with her brother Jem (Ronan Ryan) and their lawyer father, Atticus (Jonathan Gillard Daly) in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama in 1935.  It’s a strictly segregated society, with the white and black citizens of the town living in different areas and not expected to socialize.  When Atticus is called upon to defend a young black man, Tom Robinson (Terell Donnell Sledge), who has been falsely accused of raping Mayella Ewell (Rachel Fenton), the daughter of local troublemaker Bob Ewell (Alan Knoll)–who is white–the whole town is put on edge as Atticus and his family are subjected to pressure and the threat of violence themselves. The focus, as is in the book, is on the kids, with Scout, Jem, and their new friend Dill (Charlie Mathis) at the center of the story from the beginning, while the trial becomes the centerpiece of the second act. The show is also notable for its stirring, emotional score composed by Michael Keck, and the singing by the members of the local black church, of which Tom Robinson, his wife Helen (Kimmie Kidd), and the Finches’ housekeeper Calpurnia (Tanesha Gary) are members. Their plaintive, poignant singing provides much of emotional weight of the play as the story plays out.

This is something of a streamlined adaptation of the play, with several of the book’s characters and situations left out in favor of focusing on the story of the trial and the view of life in Maycomb through the eyes of the main child characters. Even Atticus, as in the book, is seen primarily through Scout’s perspective. There are also local neighbors like the friendly Miss Maudie Atkinson (Amy Loui), the bitter and ailing Mrs. Dubose (Cynthia Darlow), and the mysterious Arthur “Boo” Radley (Christopher Harris), who plays a key role in the story. The dramatic high points are the trial and its aftermath, with strong performances from Knoll, who is practically unrecognizable as the malicious Bob Ewell, Fenton as the damaged and terrified Mayella, and Sledge as the embattled Robinson. There’s also good work from Whit Reichart as the fair-minded judge, Michael Keck as Robinson’s pastor Reverend Sykes, and Gary as Calpurnia.  Daly is a strong presence as Atticus, and his rapport with the three children, and especially Scout, is excellent. Klingaman is a good anchor to the production as the ever-present older Scout, although I don’t quite understand the directorial or design decision to outfit her in modern clothes rather than the period attire she would accurately be wearing. Perhaps it’s a way to detach her somewhat from the story, or to make it more timeless in a way, showing her as somewhat “out of time” as opposed to only two or three decades removed from the story as would be more realistic. The children are especially strong in this production as well, especially Kaylee Ryan as the bold young Scout and Mathis as the determined Dill. The real-life sibling relationship of the Ryans, twins in real life, lends a lot of credibility to their scenes here as well. This is a story where the children’s perspective is vital, and that focus is achieved well here with some excellent performances.

Technically, the show is impressive as is usual for the Rep. Narelle Sissons’s set is versatile and evocative, with “grass” that seems to grow out of the stage and a large tree that serves as a prominent centerpiece, and moving set pieces that roll on and off stage as needed. The costumes by Devon Painter are also excellent, detailed and period appropriate, with the already mentioned exception of Klingaman’s more present-day ensemble. There’s also strong atmospheric lighting by Michael Klaers that helps to set the mood, especially toward the end of Act 2.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a familiar story to many people. It’s at once a document of a particular time in American history and a reminder that things aren’t quite as improved nowadays as some might think. It’s a timely and timeless story at once, as well as a rich portrayal of the what the world looks like through the eyes of children. This adaptation is a strong, emotionally charged theatrical work, with some particularly strong performances to help carry its weight, and and especially strong and memorable musical underscoring. It’s another excellent production from the Rep, and faithful to the spirit of a classic and important work of American literature.

Kaylee Ryan, Tanesha Gary, Ronan Ryan Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Kaylee Ryan, Tanesha Gary, Ronan Ryan
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting To Kill a Mockingbird until March 5, 2017.

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Constellations
by Nick Payne
Directed by Steven Woolf
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis Studio

January 20, 2017

Eric Gilde, Ellen Adair Photo by Eric Woolsey Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Eric Gilde, Ellen Adair
Photo by Eric Woolsey
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

It’s a two person play with fairly simple production values, and with a clever concept. Constellations, the latest production at the Rep Studio is not a long show, but it’s a fascinating one. This inventive, emotional, witty play finds its strength in its cast and in its concept, as well as in its s strong script.

This isn’t a long play, running at about 75 minutes with no intermission, but there’s a lot of story in that 75 minutes. In fact, there are a lot of stories in one. It’s a “what-if” sort of situation, focusing on a would-be couple in England, Marianne (Ellen Adair) and Roland (Eric Gilde), playing multiple variations of the same scene over and over to show many possible scenarios. The idea of multiverses is brought up by Marianne in-story, as  examining the theory is part of her line of work. Roland is a beekeeper who incorporates his work into his everyday life in some humorous ways, particularly in one scene–or set of scenes–that I won’t spoil here but it involves reciting a sweetly geeky prepared speech. As the story unfolds, the various possibilities of this pairing unfold, from false-starts, to betrayals, to break-ups and re-uniting, to health scares and potential tragedy. The structure, is mostly linear, also there are some moments that keep being revisited seemingly out of turn, but playwright Nick Payne deftly arranges the script so it’s not confusing. In fact, it’s fascinating.

Steven Woolf’s clear direction and the winning performances of the leads also contribute massively to the appeal of this play.  Gilde’s charming and sometimes socially awkward Roland, and Adair’s unconventional and sometimes brash Marianne make an excellent team, with strong chemistry and a great deal of energy. Adair is especially adept at changing the tone of a scene at the drop of a hat, joking one moment and crying real tears the next. The emotional arc of this piece depends greatly on the chemistry of these two, and they carry the story well.

Technically, this is a simply staged piece with a simple set. Designed by Bill Clarke, the set consists of a triangular “stage” backed by a glowing, crinkly backdrop that suggests clouds or possibly even brainwaves. Ann G. Wrightson’s lighting design ably illuminates the action and the backdrop in a variety of colors, and Lou Bird’s costumes are well-suited to the characters. Rusty Wandall’s sound is also clear and strong. It’s a somewhat whimsical set-up that serves the story well.

Constellations certainly isn’t the first dramatic work to explore the idea of alternate timelines, but its strong script and intimate focus on just two characters makes it compelling. The two leads definitely make the most of their roles, and it’s a story that’s prone to provoke some interesting thoughts and conversations. There’s every possibility that you will enjoy it!

Eric Gilde, Ellen Adair Photo by Eric Woolsey Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Eric Gilde, Ellen Adair
Photo by Eric Woolsey
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting Constellations in the Studio Theatre until February 5, 2017.

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All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
Directed by Seth Gordon
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Patrick Ball, John Woodson, Mairin Lee Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Patrick Ball, John Woodson, Mairin Lee
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Rep’s next entry in their 50th anniversary season is an American classic by one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th Century, Arthur Miller. Although I had seen and read several of Miller’s plays before, for some reason All My Sons had evaded me until now. I’m glad that it’s this production that serves as my introduction. It’s a period specific story that can’t really be updated, as tied to World War II and mid-20th Century American ideals as it is. It would be easy to approach this play as something of a history lesson or artifact. Director Seth Gordon and his first-rate cast and crew, however, will not let us do that. This production celebrates Miller’s brilliant text by bringing it to vibrant, emotional, challenging life.

This is a time-specific story definitely, but many of its themes are timeless. The hard working father and factory owner Joe Keller (John Woodson) has spent his life building a business and taking care of his family’s material needs, and he hopes to leave a legacy that will be continued by his son Chris (Patrick Ball). Chris is a World War II vet whose unseen older brother Larry, presumed to be killed years earlier in the war, is still remembered and revered by his parents, especially his mother Kate (Margaret Daly), who insists that Larry will return to his family some day. The idealistic Chris sees a future not necessarily in business but with Ann (Mairin Lee), who had been engaged to Larry. Ann and her brother George (Zac Hoogendyk) grew up next door to the Kellers but moved away after their father, an assistant of Joe’s at the factory, had gone to prison for approving the delivery of faulty airplane cylinder heads and ultimately causing the death of 21 pilots during the war. Joe had also been to prison but had been exonerated, and he tries to maintain his own high standing in the community. The neighbors love Joe. Chris idolizes Joe, but Joe is hiding something that could be devastating to him, his family, and everyone close to him.

This is a moral dilemma story but also a rich, detailed portrait and critique of its time. Miller’s sharp, incisive and natural-sounding dialogue makes these characters and their world live and breathe, and there’s humor but also palpable tension. There’s a vivid picture of a family dealing with loss, some wanting to move on and others not able to. There are the highly influential Kellers and their neighbors who live in their shadow, including men with dreams they can’t fulfill, like neighbor and doctor Jim Bayliss (Jim Ireland), and women whose lives are tied to the social and financial stability of their husbands, like Jim’s resentful wife Sue (Amy Hohn) and George’s former sweetheart Lydia (Emily Kunkel), who has settled down with the dependable but unexciting Frank (Grant Fletcher Prewett). It’s a world where financial status and social standing can take precedence over ideals and genuine care. It’s a world where people who have had their lives damaged by war desperately try to find new hope and build lives that mean something.

This is a modern tragedy centered on the likable but obviously flawed character of Joe, who is remarkably played by Woodson, who conveys Joe’s affability as well as the increasing desperation of his situation. Daly is just as effective as Kate, so devoted to her son’s memory and living in determined, devoted denial. Ball as Chris is excellent as the handsome, charming, idealistic son who is devoted to his family but wants more from life than what his father can give him. He has strong chemistry with Lee, who gives a strong but somewhat affected performance as Ann. There’s also strong support from Ireland who conveys an underlying sadness to the character of Jim, Hohn as the somewhat spiteful Sue, Kunkel as the good-natured Lydia, and Hoogendyk as the determined but conflicted George. It’s a strong ensemble, serving Miller’s brilliant script well, with Seth Gordon’s direction perfectly pitched, as the sense of tension builds in intensity and leaves a profound, lasting impact.

Technically, the production is extremely impressive, with a set by Michael Ganio that is so well-realized, realistic and somewhat fantastical at the same time, as the superb lighting by Peter E. Sargent highlights an important aspect of the set at just the right moments in the play to help reveal an important underlying theme. There’s also excellent sound design by Rusty Wandall and remarkably detailed, just-right period costumes by Myrna Colley-Lee, helping to augment the authenticity of the time and place.

All My Sons is a classic for good reason. It’s a story of post-war America, but its themes are just as powerful today as they were seventy years ago. As presented at the Rep, this play’s power and urgency are made all the more effective by the remarkable performances and staging. It’s a truly stunning production.

Margaret Daly, Mairin Lee Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Margaret Daly, Mairin Lee
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis is presenting All My Sons until January 29th, 2017. 

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A Christmas Carol
Adapted by David H. Bell
From the Novella by Charles Dickens
Directed by Steven Woolf
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis
December 2, 2016

Jerry Vogel, John Rensenhouse Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Jerry Vogel, John Rensenhouse
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

‘Tis the season for holiday-themed shows in the St. Louis theatre scene, and this year, the Rep has brought back a show that used to be staged annually decades ago. A Christmas Carol is the classic Dickens tale that has been adapted many times over the years by various playwrights, in musical and non-musical form. The Rep’s latest production, adapted by David H. Bell and performed previously by several other theatre companies, isn’t really a musical although seasonal carols abound.  It’s a technically stunning, well-cast production that keeps true to the spirit of Dickens.

As most viewers will already know, A Christmas Carol centers around the crusty, miserly money lender Ebenezer Scrooge, played here by John Rensenhouse.  After Scrooge spends Christmas Eve being his usual Christmas-hating, bah humbugging self, he gets a rude awakening when he’s suddenly visited by the spirit of his old, long-dead business partner Jacob Marley (Joneal Joplin) and warned that three more spirits will be visiting before dawn breaks on Christmas Day.  Through the visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past (Jacqueline Thompson), Present (Jerry Vogel), and Future (Landon Tate Boyle), Scrooge is reminded of what he has lost and what he could still have if he only is able to change his ways. We meet the familiar characters of Scrooge’s clerk Bob Cratchit (Michael James Reed), Cratchit’s wife (Amy Loui) and seven children including the optimistic but ailing Tiny Tim (Owen Hanford), as well as Scrooge’s persistent nephew Fred (Ben Nordstrom), and faces from his past including his former boss Mr. Fezziwig (also Vogel) and his one-time fiancee, Belle (Lana Dvorak).  The end of the story is well-known enough, but what’s important here is how the story is told, with humor, drama, music, and a lot of dazzling effects.

The cast here is excellent, led by the impressive Rensenhouse, who makes Scrooge’s journey and ultimate reformation thoroughly convincing. There’s also strong work by Joplin as a particularly creepy ghost of Jacob Marley,  Vogel in a dual role as the bouncy Fezziwig and a Ghost of Christmas Present who resembles a cross between Santa Claus and a Christmas tree, and Thompson as an ominous Ghost of Christmas Past. There are also strong performances from Nordstrom as the kindly but disappointed (in Scrooge) Fred, Reed as the earnest Bob Cratchit, Loui as Mrs. Cratchit, young Hanford as the lovable Tiny Tim, and Kaley Bender, Justin Leigh Duhon, Kennedy Holmes, Phoenix Lawson, Nathaniel Mahone, and Kara Overlein as the rest of the Cratchit children.  Susie Wall is also excellent in a dual role as Scrooge’s feisty housekeeper Mrs. Dilber and as Mrs. Fezziwig. There’s a strong ensemble as well, playing various characters and augmenting the story with a variety of well-sung Christmas carols, contributing to the overall Victorian holiday atmosphere of the piece.

Technically, this production is particularly impressive, featuring a spectacular multi-level set by Robert Mark Morgan that serves as an ideally versatile background for the action of the play. Dorothy Marshal Englis’s costumes are also superb, ranging from the authentic Victorian-era costumes of most of the ensemble to the more fantastical costumes worn by the various ghosts, including a truly chilling Ghost of Christmas Future. Rob Denton’s lighting and Rusty Wandall’s sound also contribute wonderfully to the sometimes haunting, sometimes festive atmosphere of the production, and there are also some excellent flying effects by On the FLY Productions LLC.

Although I have seen quite a few of the filmed versions of this story, I had never actually seen a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol before. The Rep’s production certainly captures the spirit of this well-known story. It’s at turns whimsical, frightening, compassionate, challenging, and wondrous, with a strong cast taking the audience on this journey that’s at once familiar and new at the same time. It’s a worthwhile show for the holiday season.

Cast of A Christmas Carol Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr. Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

Cast of A Christmas Carol
Photo by Jerry Naunheim, Jr.
Repertory Theatre of St. Louis

A Christmas Carol is being presented by the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis until December 24, 2016.

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