PROVIDENCE — Joe Wilson, Jr. has done it again… totally stolen my heart… along with the rest of the wonderful cast in Trinity Rep’s 40th anniversary production of “A Christmas Carol,” now on stage through Dec. 31. What a heartwarming, magnificent show!
Wilson, a beloved member of Trinity Rep’s resident acting company, plays the part of Ebeneezer Scrooge and gives us a Scrooge we’ll not soon forget.
The entire production is unforgettable actually, and brimming with brilliance. It’s full of fun and surprises, from slides to zip lines, from fog and smoke to bells and xylophones, from air-lifted beds to ghosts that will make you gasp, this is a not-to-be-missed performance of the Dickens Christmastime classic. Just wait till you see the fun at the Fezziwigs! And, oh, the music! You’ll hear everything from the perrenial children’s favorite, “Must be Santa,” to some jazz and Reggae numbers and a rousing rendition of the gospel tune, “You Gotta Sing when the Spirit says Sing.”
It’s also a show for all people (especially needed this Christmas season when there seem to be so many meanies and grinches lurking about on so many other stages) and a show for all ages.
In fact, there were lots of children in the audience on opening night, including a row full of child actors seated next to us who were from the show’s alternate “Green Cast,” since actors from the “Red Cast,” were on stage performing that night.
“They’re unhappy because they’d like to be on stage every night,” said the mom of one of the youngsters who had driven the kids in from Portsmouth for the show.
But back to our Scrooge. Wilson, Trinity fans will remember, played the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. earlier this year in Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” and gave a stunning performance. And now here he is before us (and I mean right before us, as our seats were exactly one row behind his bed … the flying bed I mentioned earlier) playing the familiar English miser from the 1800s.
With his gray wig and his top hat, his mourning coat and his cane Wilson gives us a Scrooge we care about. A scrooge who is genuine. Yes, of course, he is crotchety and miserly, cold-hearted and mean, just like the Ebeneezer Scrooge we remember, but Wilson’s Scrooge has depth and a sense of humor. With his glares and his stares, his limp, his herky-jerky moves and his long underwear, Wilson had the audience howling with laughter at times. But by play’s end, after his transformation, after his gut-wrenching wails, after he bellows “I don’t know what to do,” the tears flowed freely. And when the play is over, and Wilson stands on stage imploring us to make this Christmas story “a way of life” … to take this story that “teaches us that in the midst of darkness, hope can be discovered and renewed,” to heart, we love him all the more.
Resident Acting Company members Janice Duclos, Rebecca Gibel, Anne Scurria, who each play multiple roles, are, as always, top notch. The little Turkey Girl, Sofia Borges on opening night, brings down the house as she lugs the silly-looking turkey up and down the stairs.
One of the biggest gasps of delight came when the Ghost of Christmas Present, Orlando Hernández, soared onto the stage via zipline. The audience loved it. And loved his tap dancing too.
Not only is Trinity’s version of “A Christmas Carol” “re-imagined” every season by a new director, new cast, and new set of designers, but this year, since “the idea of community” is at the heart of the 2017 production, the company has invited 18 community groups to perform alongside the cast. Each group will appear in three performances throughout the run of the show. Representatives from Progreso Latino, Inc. were on stage Tuesday night, dressed in costume and singing right along with the rest. Depending on which night you attend, you’ll see groups such as Tomaquag Museum,The Boys and Girls Club of Pawtucket, Dance for the Aging Population, Dorcas International, Festival Ballet, Girls Rock!, National Alliance on Mental Illness of Rhode Island, Providence Veteran’s Administration or Youth Pride RI to name a few.
Hats off to the artistic team which has come up with marvelous new ways to make the oft-seen play refreshing and humorous. To co-directors Angela Brazil and Stephen Thorne, assistant director Jordan Butterfield, set designer Michael McGarty, choreographer Yon Tande, musical director Michael Rice, costume director Toni Spadafora, lighting designer Dawn Chiang and sound designer Peter Sasha Hurowitz, bravo!
“A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 31. Ticket prices vary. Call 401-351-4242 or visit stop by 201 Washington St., Providence, Tuesday through Sunday from 12 to 8 p.m., or visit trinityrep.org.