| Stage |

A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas from the Alley: A Splendid Production

The setup:

The Alley Theatre adaptation of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol returns in all its theatrical splendor for the 16th time.

The execution:

This adaptation, by Michael Wilson, premiered at the Alley in 1990, and has become a popular annual event elsewhere as well. While the Dickensian grasp of human nature would probably work in a grass hut, it is definitely enhanced by opulent costumes, wonderful changing sets, a touch of London fog and a glimpse of the fires of Hell. The result is spectacular, but superb acting ensures that it never loses the thread of Dickens's compassion and heart.

As Ebenezer Scrooge, Jeffrey Bean even makes stinginess interesting, and his expressive voice and rich body language turn a stereotype into an authentic and fascinating human. And Bean is equally adept at the language of comedy, after Scrooge's redemption. (If I'm giving the plot away, where have you been?)

James Belcher is strong -- and amusing -- as a vendor of cider, and also as the Spirit of Christmas Present. John Johnston brings enthusiasm and agility to make the minor role of a clock-seller stand out. The cast is huge, and graced with charming children with professional skills and charm, especially the two on the cider cart.

The current production is ably directed by James Black, and the result is to freshen a familiar story, adding excitement and visual delight, anchored in truth by skilled actors.

The verdict:

Special effects enhance a splendid production, rich in humor, and a wonderful characterization by Jeffrey Bean as Ebenezer Scrooge makes for exciting theater.

The Alley Theatre presents A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas through December 27 on the Hubbard Stage at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information or tickets, visit www.alleytheatre.org or call 713-220-5700.

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