Critic’s Choice: A charming, moving ‘Christmas Carol’ at A Noise Within in Pasadena
“A Christmas Carol” is upon us, and its winning A Noise Within production is a keeper.
Amid worthy area stagings of Charles Dickens’ immortal classic about miserly Ebenezer Scrooge’s Christmas Eve journey to redemption, this deftly performed, meta-theatrical edition stands out for fidelity to text, witty stagecraft and heartfelt embrace of message.
In an earlier era, adapter and co-director Geoff Elliott might have been an actor-manager of the Henry Irving mold. He and wife Julia Rodriguez-Elliott oversee his agreeable compression of Dickens’ prose with considerable imagination.
The effective use of the aisles and designer Jeanine Ringers’ rolling set pieces keep the narrative flowing near-cinematically, from Mitchell Edmonds’ be-chained Marley’s Ghost, through Deborah Strang’s swing-buoyed, hoop-skirted Ghost of Christmas Past and Eric Curtis Johnson’s towering, fruit-bestrewed Ghost of Christmas Present, and onward.
Brandon Hawkinson’s lighting and some judicious rear projections combine with myriad techniques and modes of attack -- whether Commedia-skewed Fezziwig fete or near-Brechtian graveyard -- with engrossing results. The Cratchits’ present merry and future mournful Christmases are but two affecting examples of the rampant sincerity afoot.
As Scrooge, Elliott’s tendency to the grand gesture delightfully inverts; the understated bile evolves into infectiously expansive brio. Freddy Douglas’ Narrator, Rafael Goldstein’s nephew Fred/younger Scrooge, Alison Elliott’s Belle and the parental Cratchit tag team of Stephen Rockwell and Jill Hill are the poles in the endearing ensemble that surrounds him.
There are fleeting oddities: Christmas Present’s lack of a lighting torch is curious. Ditto the otherwise incisive costume designer Angela Balogh Calin’s depiction of Christmas Yet To Come as a mix of golem and yeti. Composer Ego Plum’s tunes are more serviceable than memorable.
Yet well before the group pillow fight leaves the stage strewn with snowy feathers for the joyous finale, only a die-hard humbug could remain unmoved by so charming a yuletide treat. God bless us, every one.
“A Christmas Carol,” A Noise Within, 3352 E. Foothill Blvd., Pasadena. Check website for schedule. Ends Dec. 23. $48-$54. (626) 356-3121 or www.anoisewithin.org. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
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