A Christmas Carol

If ever there was a man who knew how to keep the true spirit of Christmas, such was Charles Dickens. Born to a poor family (he was the only one not to spend time in debtor's prison), and kept out of school to save money, Dickens became a crusader on behalf of the deprived. And while he may be best know in literary circles for The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations, Dickens himself was most proud of A Christmas Carol, for which he regularly gave public readings.

c In this year's version of the Denver Center Theatre Company's annual production of this appeal for loving kindness, Dickens' deep understanding of compassion and the core meaning of the Christmas story comes to the fore. Richard Risso (who alternates with Randy Moore) once again sets the standard for depicting Ebenezer Scrooge. Rizzo's transformation from the avaricious and ill-willed counting house master to the ebullient and generous benefactor is so convincing and remarkable that I must ask, "Why is it that we remember Scrooge for his greed and not for his charity?"

In addition to Rizzo's tour de force, many other performances add to the vibrancy that director Laird Williamson impressively manages to summon from the cast each and every year for Dickens' masterpiece. Bill Christ, as Dickens, the narrator, and the Ghost of Christmas past, is stately; Eric Tieze captures Bob Cratchit's tentative yet heartfelt life; Justin Yorio's Young Scrooge is eager but injured; Sarah Wayne Callies is sublime and noble as Belle; Fred is earnest and good-natured in Brian Gregory Shea's hands; Anthony Powell and Leslie O'Carroll are jovial and lascivious as the Fezziwigs; Gabriella Cavellero's Mrs. Cratchit is loving and brave; John Innes weaves an angelic spell as the Ghost of Christmas past; and Gloria Biegler is winsome as Mary.

As always, the stagecraft is flawless and rich and set off by a couple of lovely choruses.

There is no greater antidote to the materialism that has crept into the Christmas message than a heartfelt production of A Christmas Carol, and the Denver Center Theatre Company has certainly accomplished this. It runs through December 23rd. 303-893-4100.


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