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A Noise Within gives lush retelling of 'A Christmas Carol'

A Noise Within packs music, effects and fine performances into its production of the Dickens classic.

December 13, 2013|By Lynne Heffley
  • Geoff Elliott as Ebenezer Scrooge and Deborah Strang as the Ghost of Christmas Past, in a new production of "A Christmas Carol" at A Noise Within.
Geoff Elliott as Ebenezer Scrooge and Deborah Strang… (Courtesy of Craig…)

"Marley was dead, to begin with."

December brings many things specific to the season and one of them is "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens' rich tale of redemption, a staple offering of countless theater companies this month, across the country and beyond.

How this 19th century classic of literature is brought to life on stages today ranges from minimalist readings, assorted abstractions and daffy adaptations to all-out theatrical Victorian feasts with lavish trimmings.

At A Noise Within in Pasadena, co-artistic director Geoff Elliott hits the high points in his engaging, if brisk 90-minute production for all ages, using Dickens' language (albeit in short excerpts) and weaving in original songs to celebrate the tale's message — more timely now than ever.

Helming the production with his co-artistic director, Julia Rodriguez-Elliott, Geoff Elliott is the show's pitch-perfect Scrooge, too. (Before this Scrooge's soul-expanding conversion to empathy and generosity, even his walk is cranky.)

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The show, featuring a lively ensemble, quicksteps the pace with touches that are both mildly spooky and comic. Scrooge's first encounter with the supernatural — his door-knocker transforms into a ghostly apparition — is done with an ominous projected visual image and green glowing eyes. The trip back in time to festivities at Fezziwig's encompasses dancing and circus-like acrobatics, and the dinner guests at the home of Scrooge's good-hearted nephew Fred (Rafael Goldstein) unexpectedly don masks for a witty musical number.

The creative team plays a large part in the success of the production overall. Ken Booth provides crucial mood lighting throughout. Jeanine A. Ringer's scenic design smoothly incorporates representative mobile set pieces — bleak wintery trees, Scrooge's office furniture and four-poster bed, a giant tombstone — as well as the atmosphere-enhancing projections, hanging windows and the old-fashioned metal framework that flanks the stage.

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