A Christmas Carol
Reviewed by David Kashimba
Photo by Jon McNally

If you’re looking for a truer meaning to Christmas than shopping for presents, check out Walnut Creek’s Center Repertory’s production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

“Dickens wrote this story as a gift to his family for the holidays,” said director Scott Denison. “Each year, I see this as our gift to the community and as a reminder that we can all be better people.” This is Denison’s fifth year directing A Christmas Carol, which has had more than 18 productions at Center Repertory.

Ralph Miller, who is in his sixth year of playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge looks behind the grumpy old man to see what caused Scrooge to become such a mean old miser: “…Scrooge had a sad early life and was abandoned by his father and sent off to boarding school. He clearly loved his sister, Fran, who died at an early age. This hurt… evolved to anger – he turned into a miser because he felt the world turned on him. In playing him, I try to find those real things that are the cause of his condition… because everyday people have similar tragedies, both large and small.”

The ghosts that confront Scrooge are quite spectacular in their visual effects as well as the lessons they teach. Some are so scary and startling that you might want to prepare any young children you bring to this production. When the ghost of Scrooge’s deceased business partner suddenly rose from the grave, on the night I attended, a young girl seated in the first five rows screamed, jumped into her father’s arms and wouldn’t let go until the show was over. Played by tall, broad-shouldered Kevin Blackton, who has a very powerful, reverberating stage voice and wore some deadly scary makeup, this ghost even made me jump.

But the realism of the ghosts adds a lot of impact to the production and helps burn in the lessons. “It’s an old lesson,” said Jenny Denison Perry (The Ghost of Christmas Past), “but you have to confront your past to see how you are behaving in the present in order to improve the future.”

It’s no wonder that the warm family oriented community of Walnut Creek and surrounding Bay Area communities have supported this production year after year. Not only does Center Repertory Company continually try to improve on the play, such as the use of a vocal quartet to interweave the story with traditional English carols, but also the story itself is full of ideals that help build a strong community. “Dickens clearly believes that if we embrace family and goodness, it is never too late to make a change,” said Scott Denison.

For tickets call (925) 943-SHOW or visit www.dlrca.org, and get into the meaning of Christmas at Center Repertory.

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