Blair production rings in the holiday cheer
High school Christmas plays at Blair can be hit or miss propositions. Yet this year — as was confirmed by the audience's enthusiastic reception — the winter play is definitely a hit. From the heartwarming opening scene to the dramatic closing(s) of the curtain, Blair's rendition of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" steals our hearts and tucks us comfortably into that cozy place we reserve for holiday memories and traditions.
Kelly O'Connor, the play's director, has done a fine job of casting some of the most talented students Blair has to offer. As the play begins, Ebenezer Scrooge, played brilliantly by senior Scott Wittman, draws the audience in with his ability to make Scrooge a simultaneously loathsome and pathetic creature. Scrooge has been so overtaken with greed that his perceptions of the world around him have been skewed. He is blind to the fact that those around him are suffering and that he himself is not truly happy. With deep set eyes, a perennial scowl and a biting wit, Wittman fills the stage and carries the play.
The way the supporting actors play off of Wittman's Scrooge adds a lot to the performance. They become interesting mirrors as they react to his blatant hostility towards humanity as a whole. Some are complacently submissive, like the young Bob Cratchit, played by sophomore Gerard Bradley, and some oddly sympathetic, like Scrooge's (sometimes overly) jolly nephew Fred, played by sophomore Adam Carey. Some are appalled and frightened of his harsh demeanor, like the two charity visitors, played by Catherine Rogers and Jennifer Parry, and most of the townspeople.
One of the most memorable characters of the play, though his role is small, is young Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit's son. Though not nearly old enough to be a Blazer, 8-year old Danny Fanord, playing Tim, lights up the stage with his energy. In Dickens' story, Tiny Tim, crippled and ill, portrays the epitome of helplessness. It was sometimes difficult for Fanord to keep his nervous emotions or smiles under control, but this did not have a negative effect on the performance. Fanord tugs at the audience's heartstrings with his mischievous grin and cute voice.
Not far into the play, the audience gets quite a treat with the appearance of the ghost of Jacob Marley, played with eerie ferocity by senior Jason Meer, all ghastly in gray. It's Christmas Eve and Scrooge is bitter that business will not be as usual the following day. Things take a turn for the odd, when all lights go out but the one in Scrooge's room and fog pours in from both ends of the stage. Scrooge begins to look genuinely scared, as Marley's ghost, heavily laden with thick chains, stomps up the stairs to Scrooge's room. Marley comes with a warning that Scrooge will one day end up in symbolic chains upon his death if he doesn't change his ways, and fast. To drive his point home, Marley brings on three ghosts that each show Scrooge a different Christmas from the past, present and future so that Scrooge might come to understand the pain and suffering his greed causes. Meer's deep voice and intense visage successfully send chills up the audience's spine, and give a serious tone to the performance.
The performance wouldn't have been nearly as impressive had it not been for the creative set design and sumptuous costumes. From the mood-setting fog, to the creepy door knocker which turns into Jacob Marley's face, the stage crew does a great job of transporting us to Dickens' England. In addition, thanks to donations and Blair's stocked closet, this year's costumes are so lavish and to-the-period, they give the play an authentic feel.
Most importantly, O'Connor is loyal to the heart of Dickens' original work. When the audience gets a look at scenes from Scrooge's past Christmases, (thanks to the lovely Ghost of Christmas past, played by junior Brittany Allen,) they are reminded that Scrooge wasn't always such an inconsiderate money grubber. The audience learns that Scrooge is little more than a lonely person who has forgotten what it's like to be loved. With each of the following visits, first from the spirit of Christmas present, played most superbly by junior Claire Kalala, and then from the ghost of Christmas future, played silently, but to the point, by junior Catherine Rogers, the viewers get a real sense of Scrooge's maturity and transformation from the old miser he was, to the appreciative man that he wants to, and will, be.
As long as the divide between rich and poor still exists and greed runs rampant in the world, "A Christmas Carol" will remain a true classic of literature and theater; Dickens' story is timeless and Blair students do it justice. At the end of the play, we are more than ready to join Tiny Tim in declaring, "God bless us everyone."
April DalBello. More »