A Christmas Carol – Drury Lane Oakbrook

Written by Charles Dickenscaroldrlogo

Directed by Scott Calcagno

A Lighter Version of Dickens

Drury Lane’s production of A Christmas Carol is aimed more towards children than the other equity productions in the Chicagoland area, but it is still dramatically charming for audience members of all ages.  The opening introductions set a playful tone when it is kids’ voices that come from the speakers to announce the usual reminders to turn off your cell phones and refrain from taking photographs, and they add a neat little twist by discussing some “theatre etiquette” with the young audience members.  The cast of accomplished Drury Lane regulars joyously perform one of this holiday’s most well know classics and appear to have as much fun as the audience.

The story of Scrooge, the wealthy old man, bitter, greedy and loathes Christmas yet reforms his life after being visited by three Christmas ghosts contains all the flavor of Dickens’ characters and literary brilliance, but is shortened and made lighter for its younger audience.  Dickens’ A Christmas Carol can be dark and frighten the orange juice out of kids, but Drury Lane’s Production minimizes the tragic aspects of the story and maintains a more cheerful tone.  With some of the most talented performers in Chicago’s musical theatre scene all working together the quality is beyond typical young audience theatre and it is an extra special experience for adults who can sit in great seats to see these stars perform.

Most of the set relies on the viewer’s imagination.  A large wooden door rotates on wheels to change the inside locations.  A staircase and bedroom set are wheeled in to create the sleeping quarters where the Christmas ghosts haunt Ebenezer Scrooge.  The large chains attached to the dead Jacob Marley are spooky but not scary.  The ghost of Christmas Present is draped in the full splendor of a 25 pound red velvet holiday robe, but the most stunning effect is with the ghost of Christmas Future.  Walking around at well over ten feet tall, this enormous Grimm Reaper is mad real by moving around on stilts.

For the adults in the audience director Scott Calcagno highlights some of the political statements made in Dickens writing.  Scrooge believes that since he pays significant taxes for jails and poorhouses there is no need to donate to the poor, they can go to the poorhouses that the government provides.  I still hear many people, mostly Republicans, using the same justifications and viewpoints as Scrooge to defend their closed minded point of view.  A moment that is especially relevant today is when Scrooge is looking in on Cratchit’s family and sees how sick Tiny Tim is.  “Can’t he go see a doctor?” Scrooge asks, showing how out of touch his money and seclusion has made him from the everyday struggles people endure.

In the opening scenes Scrooge is strong.  He’s aged with greed and has natural grouchiness in his character, but as the play developed he lost the duality in Scrooge’s personality and felt immediate remorse for his current bitterness.  There was no mystery while he was visited by the ghosts, but this does make it more suitable for children by stressing the cheerfulness of the holiday rather than the darkness in Dickens’ writing.  Many of Chicago’s Favorite performers light up the stage, and I believe this production has the best Bob Cratchit in the City.

As the three Christmas ghosts show scrooge life beyond his doors and inspire him to turn his life around, the story A Christmas Carol shows us that happiness is found in the presence of others.  It is the love and support of those around us that make life worth living and it is never too late to embrace that.

RECOMMENDED (especially for kids)

Reviewed by:  Timothy McGuire

A Christmas Carol is currently runs through December 21st at 100 Drury Land, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181.  Regular performances are at 10:00am.  Certain performances at 12pm and 1pm are scheduled.  Show only tickets are available for $10 and a group rate of $8.40 per person is available for parties of 20 or more.  For reservations, phone (630) 530-01111 or visit www.drurylaneoakbrook.com.