New Yorkers tend to be cynical by nature, and even during the holidays, it takes a lot to soften our tough hides. So, I have to commend the creative team behind this latest adaptation of "A Christmas Carol," because as much as we've heard Dickens' classic tale through the years, it would take a very cold heart not to feel the spirit this time around.
Director Matthew Warchus wastes no time putting us in a festive mood with the actors handing out cookies and Clementines as the audience enters under hundreds of lanterns strewn throughout the theatre. There is dance and music both original and traditional played sweetly at times with hand bells adding to the merriment.
But unlike other versions of the iconic story, which attempt to dazzle with special effects, this one has a more introspective tone adding dimension to the characters that have come to be so familiar to us.
Writer Jack Thorne applied the same psychological depth to Scrooge and company that he so winningly used to portray the Harry Potter characters currently on stage in "The Cursed Child." The effect draws us into the story as if for the first time. Scrooge is not simply a nasty fellow. He's a product of a class system that rewards the rich and condemns the poor. And the ghosts that visit him aren't just scary visions. They have personalities too. Their interactions reveal in compelling fashion just how old Ebenezer came to be such a curmudgeon.
With the emphasis on character dynamics, it of course helps to have first rate actors and happily, the production, led by Campbell Scott, is blessed with a terrific cast. Scott handles the surly side of Scrooge convincingly enough but it's when he has to portray the humanity within that the performance truly stands out.
A couple of touching scenes — one with his estranged first love Belle and another later with Tiny Tim — brought the audience to tears. Young Jai Ram Srinivasan, a little boy with a big talent also happens to have cerebral palsy.
And it was such a bonus to see Andrea Martin and LaChanze as the ghosts of Christmas Past and Present. Their effortless professionalism adds the spice to this heartwarming treat of a show.
Speaking of holiday treats, it ends with a bounty of food passing hands through the audience. A fitting finale to a celebration of community even as we’re mindful that the spectre of inequality still haunts us to this day.