A “Bewitching” Presentation of a Holiday Classic
Those of a certain vintage — or those of us who watched them as repeats — may remember the TV show Bewitched. Due to illness, the role of “Darrin” played by Dick York, was filled by Dick Sargent for its final three seasons. Fundamentally, the show had changed, but in reality it pretty much felt the same.
Sure, some people will have their favourite Dicks, but the change in Samantha’s husband didn’t dramatically alter the show. And that’s why the current iteration of A Christmas Carol, on The Grand Theatre’s Spriet Stage, is a successfully “bewitching” presentation of the Charles Dickens holiday classic.
In this version, the role of Ebenezer Scrooge is played by Jan Alexandra Smith, who ably fills the shoes left behind after last year’s performance by Benedict Campbell. And while one would think that switching Scrooge’s sex should be a huge change, it really doesn’t make that big of a difference.
The show, in large part, feels like last year’s production — and that’s a good thing.
Smith is excellent in her role of Scrooge. She infuses the role with a bit more subtle lightness and sly humour, and those elements are a welcome addition to the production. There is also a gentle — but pointed — nod towards paternalistic society when a pair coming to ask for charitable donations automatically assumes that male employee Bob Cratchit is the proprietor over the female Scrooge standing just feet away. It’s a quick moment that isn’t heavy-handed in its application, but it’s a welcome nod to the attitudes then — and, in many ways, now.
Smith’s deft inclusion of humour is a welcome addition to a show that feels very familiar to those of us who have seen The Grand’s version before. In large part, it’s a note-by-note recreation of last year’s show. Even some of the parts that didn’t work last year — like the digitized “shattering” of ice-inspired opening credits — make a return. And many of the cast have returned to their roles.
There have been some changes for the better. Some of the costumes, most notably the Ghost of Christmas Present, have been updated. There were also some subtle additions during Scrooge’s final “awakening” with the Ghost of Christmas Future that more fully rounded out the experience.
The cast is uniformly solid. Aidan deSalaiz is wonderfully wholesome and kind as Fred; Steve Ross commands the stage — and leads some dynamic choreography — as Mr. Fezziwig; and Nikki Duval threatens to steal the entire show in her turn as the hilarious Mrs. Dilber. And the rest of the cast intermingles, moves about the scenes, and capably fill their roles and effectively support the story.
Stage-wise, not much has changed from last year. The stage is still grand and dynamic. From Scrooge’s massive four poster bed to the clever creation of outdoor winter scenery, the staging is effectively transitioned throughout the play by the cast, and everything feels appropriate.
During the holiday season, many of us embrace traditions. We hold on to memories and recreate experiences as a way to hold tight to those around us — and those who have past. We sing the same songs, watch the same movies, and — for many Londoners — we have the luxury of seeing a familiar production of A Christmas Carol. It can be a family tradition based on the foundation of a consistently solid show.