I often wondered why crowds would form a line at 7: 30 a.m. on a Saturday to purchase tickets to Colonial Players' "A Christmas Carol." Yes, the tickets are inexpensive and make good presents, but that's only part of the reason.
This offering, with books and music by Dick Gessner and Rick Wade, is steeped in tradition and cherished as such by many actors who happily repeat their roles. Colonial Players' 16th annual "Christmas Carol" radiates a unique Annapolis charm.
The success of any "Christmas Carol" depends on the portrayal of Scrooge, and Colonial Players is fortunate to have the energetic David Harper repeating the role for the eighth time. He has reached near-perfection as the miserly moneylender, extracting every nasty nuance out of each line. He is deliciously mean as he snarls, "Bah k'ha-Umbug," adding a zesty syllable, and sings with great style.
When his character sees the light and turns into the merriest of Christmas celebrants, Harper becomes ebullient as he dances and sings "Keeping Christmas."
Music Director Roger Compton plays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's loyal but put-upon employee, with the warmth he usually brings to his roles. Compton is a gifted singer who does well by "The Most Marvelous Time of the Year" and "Bless Us All."
Jill Sharpe-Compton is charming as Mrs. Cratchit, and Tiny Tim, their crippled son, is well-played by third-grader James Waters, who sings sweetly.
Linda Harper, a veteran of three "Christmas Carols," and Tim Greib appear as Belinda and Peter, the older Cratchit siblings.
Scrooge's good-natured nephew, Fred, is played by Brock Ballard, who is having fun conveying all the sunny traits the character demands. Ballard, who was seen in Moonlight Troupers' "The Diviners," is an attractive, versatile actor. Fred's wife is well-played by Julie Fox, who returns to the company after a 13-year absence.
James Gallagher is convincing as the Ghost of Jacob Marley. Ed Wintermuth, a member of the original cast, stylishly reprises his portrayal of the Ghost of Christmas Present, instructing Scrooge, while conveying a merry nature. Completing this ghostly trio is June Bloom as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
Among the play's best-natured Christmas celebrants is old Fezziwig, who employed the young Scrooge in his shop, cheerfully played by Bob Metzler; and Mrs. Fezziwig, played by Margie Haig, who dances and sings well in "Hilli-Ho! Chirup!"
J. B. McLendon's directing and choreography are obviously done with love. Lighting Director Dottie Meggers' skills add their own brilliance to the joyous conclusion.
And when it was over, the cast formed the traditional receiving line in the lobby, with Tiny Tim passing out candy canes.
"A Christmas Carol" runs tonight through Sunday at the theater on East Street in Annapolis.
Pub Date: 12/11/97