Dallas — Christmas is a time of traditions. Some are better forgotten; the leaden fruitcake and the drunken uncle come to mind. But others are the reasons why we anticipate the season each year, and for many Ebenezer Scrooge at Pocket Sandwich Theatre is one of those. The Pocket Sandwich just celebrated its 34th anniversary, which is a tremendous accomplishment for any independent theater, and its annual Ebenezer Scrooge is a strong indication of why they have flourished.
This telling of A Christmas Carol adds a festive group of a carolers to move the action along, as well as some original songs. Simple but effective choreography from Linda Leonard contributes to the Victorian holiday feel, as do the nicely period costumes.
In the titular role, David H.M. Lambert commands the stage as the richest man in the city should. Lambert has played the role since 1993 and the experience shows. Lambert’s Scrooge is bitter and grasping, but he never feels like a caricature.
He grows almost boyish as we watch the games shown to him by the Ghosts of Christmas. The ensemble plays the rest of the roles, a standout being Nikka Morton, who ranges from a Victorian society matron who tries to solicit charitable contributions from Scrooge to a down—but hardly out—charwoman selling pilfered goods.
The long suffering Bob Cratchit (Dustin Curry) and his wife (Lindsey Yarborough) create a credible bond as they count their blessings with their children and later mourn the death of Tiny Tim. And that young man, (Parker Nikiski) brings the requisite lump in the throat as he valiantly wields his crutch. Tim Byrne’s Fred is good natured with a twinkle that reveals the spark of mischief lurking under the surface.
Using smatterings of dialogue directly from Dickens’ novel, the familiar story is well told and engaging, as the three Christmas spirits show Ebenezer Scrooge the dreadful possibilities that will ensue unless he reforms his life. The scenes are punctuated by Christmas carols from the ensemble. Traditional songs of the era are interspersed with original songs by Joe Dickinson and Laurie Tirmenstein. Some of these are charming, but a comic “dance on his grave” number, while done well, simply slows down the forward momentum of the evening. Ebenezer Scrooge runs two hours with two intermissions, which allows patrons to order another round of beer, err wassail.
Pocket Sandwich does a superb job of maximizing the right quarters in the theater. The bi-level set, designed by Rodney Dobbs allows director Richard S. Blake to give the spirits dramatic moments as they tower over Scrooge in his lonely bed. Video sequences by MGI productions depict the streets of London and an illuminated volume of the Christmas Carol volume. The images add a touch of Victorian elegance to the proceedings.
If your Christmas traditions could use a revamp, perhaps it’s time to make an old fashioned date with Ebenezer Scrooge.