CRESTVIEW — We all know the story: grumpy, miserly, miserable, wretched Ebenezer Scrooge shuns the business of caring for mankind to focus on the business of business. Four ghosts later and he’s a transformed man, Tiny Tim lives, the Cratchits have turkey and we wipe away a tear and feel Christmassy.
I’m not spoiling anything by summarizing Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas parable because every time we read it — and everybody should read it — or see a movie, TV or stage version, the story’s as fresh, touching and relevant as ever.
View From the Stage, Crestview’s community theatre troupe, brings the story to Warriors Hall’s equivalent of Cinemascope, taking full advantage of that wide, wide stage to pack an eye-pleasing cast of 48 thespians into the Michael Demaio musical based on Dickens’ timeless story.
Director Sandra Peters wrung an enjoyable opening night performance Friday from her four dozen actors, who ranged in age from elementary school kids to retirees.
A few ear-shattering audio glitches marred Act I, suggesting the show might have benefited from an extra tech rehearsal or two, but knowing the financial challenges of having to rent that hall, I sympathized more than cringed.
Several standouts carried along a cheerful, enthusiastic cast, headed by Nick Trolian, who had the unenviable task of transforming his Scrooge from a surly old poop into crippled Tiny Tim’s avuncular benefactor after his night of ghostly revelation.
I have a strict criterion for judging tellings of “A Christmas Carol.” If I don’t get moist-eyed when Scrooge declares his conversion and starts dispensing goodwill, I consider the production a flop.
View From a Stage had me sniffing and surreptitiously wiping my cheeks to such a degree my spectacles fogged up.
Other highlights included Cassandra Schneider and Corey Black as Mrs. Dilber and Old Joe, respectively Scrooge’s maid who sells his belongings to a pawn dealer. Their musical number was a delightful bit of silliness reminiscent of “You Got to Pick a Pocket Or Two” in “Oliver!”
Likewise enjoyable were Jeremy Edwards as Marley’s ghost, a particularly well-acted apparition made all the more eerie by effective lighting. His fellow ghosts, Ashley Stewart, Sean Peters and Dave Daigle, playing the spirits of Christmases past, present and future, were likewise excellently cast.
Talk about an entrance
The audience was particularly enthralled with Christmas Present’s jovial entrance upon a glowing Mardi Gras parade float of a giant cornucopia.
Lincoln Sayger’s Bob Cratchit, and Douglas Black’s cheerful Fred Scrooge, Ebenezer’s Christmas-loving nephew, were the personification of gentle benevolence and merry celebration respectively.
Special note should also be made of Allie Howard’s Tiny Tim. Allie turned 8 years old the week of the production, but instead of receiving gifts, gave the audience the present of her winning combination of adorable personality and capable singing.
Some people will say the story is about Scrooge, which it is, to an extent. But I like to think it’s more about Tiny Tim and his optimism and conviction that deep inside even the most despicable among us, there is a dormant spark of good.
Like Tiny Tim fanning that spark, View From the Stage’s delightful production of “A Christmas Carol,” running this afternoon and tomorrow at 2:30 and 6:30, can’t help but make the spirit of Christmas lurking within us — but shrouded by gift wrapping, card writing and tree trimming — burst into flame. TIckets are available at the door.