Jefferson Mays’ model of “A Christmas Carol,” by which he portrays some fifty characters, struck me as a singular adaptation of Charles Dickens’ story in 4 distinct and memorable methods after I noticed it a few years in the past. Opening tonight at Broadway’s Nederlander Theater, it’s nonetheless distinctive…in 3 ways. I’ve blended emotions concerning the absence of the fourth.
The obvious distinction is Mays’ quick-change artistry, a expertise he has exhibited a number of occasions earlier than, equivalent to his Tony-winning efficiency in “I Am My Personal Spouse” and his Tony-nominated efficiency in “A Gentleman’s Information to Love and Homicide,” however this time with no change of costume. He’s Scrooge at three totally different ages; he’s 4 ghosts (previous, current and future, in addition to the ghost of Scrooge’s former enterprise associate Jacob Marley); he’s Scrooge’s worker Bob Cratchit (and all of Cratchit’s household together with Tiny Tim); he’s even a pot of indignant potatoes – and each different character besides one: The Spectre (portrayed wordlessly by Danny Gardner.)
This Christmas Carol can be totally different from most variations as a result of it tells the story the way in which Charles Dickens wrote it. The central character whom Mays portrays, referred to as The Mourner, is the narrator, who delivers the ebook’s prose verbatim (with just some enhancing to maintain the efficiency all the way down to 95 minutes); the remainder of the characters provide the dialogue, additionally precisely as written. The impact of that is manifold: It restores a few of the heft and the horror that Dickens supposed, but in addition a few of the refined humor. The novelist subtitled his 1843 story “A Ghost Story of Christmas” and director Michael Arden makes certain this adaptation is actually darkish and scary. It additionally makes express what is usually performed down in vacation variations; Dicken’s concern for what we now name social justice. The mix of literary and scary makes this model most likely not the perfect for younger kids (It’s advisable for eight and above.)
This “A Christmas Carol” can be terribly well-designed. Different productions have additionally been beautiful, such because the one tailored by Jack Thorne and directed by Matthew Warchus that ran on Broadway in 2019. However Dane Laffrey’s scenic design, Ben Stanton’s lighting, Lucy MacKinnon’s projections, and Joshua D. Reid’s sound design really feel like an important assist to Mays’ efficiency, his literal scene companions. There may be one scene the place he’s trying on the road by a window at a cheerful get together of dancers and merrymakers, and rattling it regarded like these have been there within the flesh. Different scenes function spectacular results.
The significance of the design turned extra evident to me on Broadway than it had been after I noticed the Mays model in December, 2020, as a result of that was through the pandemic lockdown, and the present was completely digital — live-captured a couple of month earlier on the darkish stage of the in any other case empty United Palace Theater, after which streamed onto my laptop – one of the profitable examples of digital theater that yr. It added to the spirit of the vacation season that the ticket income went to assist theaters that have been in acute want throughout the nation.
Having seen the performer’s facial expressions in close-up (just like the close-ups in many of the images and movies on this web page, however not on the stage of the Nederlander), I couldn’t assist questioning whether or not a 1,200-seat Broadway theater was the perfect venue to showcase this performer’s skills. The dim lighting and occasional complete darkness had a special impact when so most of the viewers (not all of them within the far-away seats) have been already straining to comply with what has taking place on stage. Because of this the design is so necessary. And it’s typically stunning; at climactic moments, superior. Certainly, the units and particularly the lighting threatened at occasions to swallow up Jefferson Mays. Like many a scene associate, the design appeared once in a while to attempt to upstage the star.
A Christmas Carol
Nederlander Theater by January 1, 2023
Working time: 95 minutes with no intermission
Tickets: $79.75 to $210
Written by Charles Dickens, tailored by Michael Arden, Susan Lyons and Jefferson Mays
Manufacturing conceived by Michael Arden and Dane Laffrey
Directed by Michael Arden
Scenic and costume design by Dane Laffrey; lighting design by Ben Stanton; projection design by Lucy Mackinnon; sound design by Joshua D. Reid; hair and make-up design by Cookie Jordan, puppet design by John Kristiansen
Forged: Jefferson Mays, Danny Gardner