Wednesday, December 19, 2012

An Inventive Christmas Tradition at DE Theatre Co

Delaware Theatre Company's “A Christmas Carol” is a wildly inventive take on the Dicken's classic. The transformation of DTC under ED Bud Martin is moving with Amtrack's Acela type speed (one of their sponsors). There is a whole new inventory of NY trained and experienced actors arriving here at warp speed.
The tech crews have been revamped as well. Aisle Say has seen neither the dramatic lighting nor the creativity of set pieces in this 4 decades old performing arts venue. Credit goes to Chris Lee and Brian Prather respectively.. Lee, for example, has lit over 150 shows on Broadway, London's West End and overseas.
DTC's recent history BB (before Bud) was to attempt to pacify both the budget and the audiences with small casts and unit sets.
While there are only 5 is this cast, all but Scrooge (Andrew Long) played more characters than one could count. Playwright Patrick Barlow solved the dilemma for the audience by simply naming them Actors 1 through 4. (Barlow also wrote Broadways' “39 Steps” which was staged at Philly's Walnut Street Theatre last season).
Huzzah to Director Joe Calarco - winner of 2 Barrymore Awards and 4 Helen Hayes Awards – for keeping the action apace.
3 of the actors play instruments, adding so unequivocally to the gaiety of this message of Christmas humanity. Steve Pacek plays the drum and the flugelhorn; Tina Stafford the accordion - of all things! (I was waiting for the Dickensian take on “Lady of Spain” but it didn't happen); and Jessie Shelton (making her professional debut after graduating from Carnegie Mellon only last year), the violin.
While there was no choreography per se, the paced movement of the actors – and their costume changes – was reminiscent of the UD's REP Ensemble presentation of “Our Country's Good” last year. It was as fluid as the Brandywine Creek being diverted into the millrace and then back again to the creek. You thought you saw a change, but then again it was so sinuous you weren't quite sure.
It's the small things, the devilish details that this whole new era of DTC is about. Tiny Tim is a wooden puppet. It would have been easy to buy one from a theatrical house and train his Dad, Bob Cratchit, how to mobilize that woodeny character. DTC went to one Thomas Getchell, a puppet designer who recently graduated from U of Connecticut's Puppetry Program. He designed and built Tiny Tim expressly for DTC.
Forever imprinted in my Christmas movie mind vault is Scottish actor Alistar Sims' portrayal of Scrooge in the black and white version of 1951. Scrooge awakes realizing he is still alive and the night's torment was only a dream. To call him positively giddy is to say that Rodney Dangerfield was 'somewhat' funny. Sims is deranged, beside himself and we love it. He opens the window and sees the boy passing by. He screams, he cavorts, he implores the boy to go buy the turkey to give to the Cratchits. I am not saying that Andrew Long would replace my image of Alistar Sims..but he was close.
This is a show for the entire family.
It was good to see that in DTC's program was an insert for New Candlelight Theatre, opening with “The Producers' on 25 January. Theatres helping other theatres is a good thing.
Through December 30. 302.594.1100

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