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A Christmas Carol

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Just when the mere thought of sitting through one more performance of A Christmas Carol could push us over the edge, along comes International City Theatre to the rescue. Under the fast-paced direction of Caryn Desai--who puts her own commedia dell'arte spin on Doris Baizley's adaptation of Charles Dickens' holiday classic--ICT reprises its critically acclaimed 2003 production with no holds barred.

Picture this. Everything starts on Tom Buderwitz's empty circus stage (from an original design by Don Llewellyn) with Daryl Archibald's hurdy-gurdy music softly grinding in the background. A disgruntled stage manager appears and starts barking orders at his young assistant as he checks props in the troupe's costume trunk. Because crucial items are missing, the grouchy manager declares that this production of A Christmas Carol is over. "Who needs props?" asks the innovative boy. "Aren't we professionals?" And right on cue, nine circus characters rush down the aisles, climb over seats, wave ribbons, juggle balls, throw balloons, turn somersaults, mount the stage, and create total pandemonium in this inimitable version of Scrooge and his redemption. The company's energy never wanes, to the delight of everyone in the audience--even the "bah, humbug" curmudgeons. Think three-ring circus. Think Punch and Judy. Think Federico Fellini and controlled madness with clowns and the three Christmas ghosts as goofy giant-sized puppets.

It takes consummate skill, total collaboration, and a tight-knit ensemble to put this material across. Heading the list is Matthew Henerson, who is terrific in his tour-de-force portrayal of Stage Manager/Scrooge. Also excellent are E.E. Bell as Old Clown/Mr. Fezziwig; Greg Bryan as Marley/Christmas Future; and Emily Eiden as Belle/Mrs. Fred. You'll be astonished by Madeleine Falk's impressive circus skills, Nadine Parkos and Gelareh Khalioum's imaginative costumes, Cisco Xavier Drayton's choreography, and Barbara Matthews' circus makeup. Take the toddlers, round up your teenagers, and tell your friends and neighbors. This Christmas Carol is geared for everyone in the family.

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