This is the Indiana Repertory Theatre's 25th year of producing A Christmas Carol, a tradition for many families in the greater Indianapolis area. This year, I was able to return to the show for the first time in seven years after taking a maternally induced writing hiatus. And I found that many of the elements that make this show so beautiful are still intact: a plethora of Indianapolis' favorite actors, the choral recitation of lines, just the right amount of music, the gorgeous backdrop of haunting ruins, beautiful period costumes, dramatic lighting, the spooky entrance of the Ghost of Christmas Past and of course lots and lots and lots of snow. But different faces pop up in different roles, Tiny Tims have to stay tiny, the script is trimmed here and there and a director's personal touches add new nuance.
IRT Executive Artistic Director Janet Allen takes the directorial reins this year for the first time since 1998 — and what strikes me the most in this rendition is the portrayal of Scrooge. Ryan Artzberger is so intense that there is no caricature to his character. His Ebenezer truly is terrifying, and while that kind of believability is usually lauded onstage, in this setting, it is intimidating. If I had been one of the charity solicitors, I would have shit my pants when Scrooge charged at me with that ruler. With no humorous or relatable edging, it's hard to root for Scrooge's transformation. And his eventual redemption is creepy in its own way. Artzberger's laugh seems calculatingly sinister instead of sincere, as if he's going to buy the giant turkey and then use Tiny Tim as stuffing.
Charles Goad (Marley's ghost, et al), Constance Macy (Mrs. Fezziwig, et al), Emily Ristine (Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit, et al), Milicent Wright (Christmas Present, et al), Charles Pasternak (young Scrooge, Fred, et al), and Jeremy Fisher (young Marley, Bob Cratchit) all play their roles with panache, as does the crowd of other thespians on stage.
The productions are consistently posh in every way — as John Hammond would say, its creators "spare no expense." Even as the show has evolved over the last quarter century, it has remained the perfect picture postcard of Christmas.