Can human beings, imbued with the holiday spirit, truly change for the better?
The answer is a resounding “yes” in “A Christmas Carol” at Ford’s Theatre running now through Jan. 1.
“What’s beautiful about the show is you’re never too old to change,” actor Craig Wallace told WTOP.
Adapted by Michael Wilson from Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, the play follows London miser Ebenezer Scrooge as he’s visited by four spirits on Christmas Eve. The spirits: his late business partner Jacob Marley, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. As these time-traveling spirits show Scrooge what was, what is and what might be, he transforms from a greedy curmudgeon to a generous soul that shows charity to Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim.
“Ebenezer Scrooge lacks compassion,” Wallace said. “He’s a man of wealth, business and means. He’s not without family, but he’s not interested in his family because he feels that any relationship that doesn’t move him forward is frivolous. One Christmas Eve night, he goes on a journey and he’s visited by three ghosts … After that journey, he learns that true wealth in life is generosity and he wakes up on Christmas Day a changed man.”
This year marks Wallace’s fourth year in the role after taking over for Edward Gero.
“I feel like I’ve finally made it my own,” Wallace said. “That makes me enjoy it so much more. I’m really going to have a good time this year.”
He loves how Scrooge’s “humbug” attitude juxtaposes against the climatic awakening.
“What’s really fun for me is to see the surprise [in the audience],” Wallace said. “People who don’t know me or haven’t seen my work, they don’t realize the man you saw in the beginning. At the end, he’s a totally different man. They didn’t think that the man on Christmas Day is inside the man that they met in the counting house.”
Justine “Icy” Moral returns for her third year as the Ghost of Christmas Past.
“The first year I was a little nervous because it is the flying role,” Moral said. “To be flying up there like 10 to 20 feet in the air can be a little nerve wracking, but I think I’m getting the hang of it. It’s just so exciting to be able to come out into the audience and see everyone’s faces looking up at you and to be in that glittery, shining outfit.”
Those outfits come from costume designer Alejo Vietti and wig designer Charles G. LaPointe, who create the ghostly chains of Jacob Marley.
“Jacob Marley is played by the amazing Stephen Schmidt,” Moral said. “He gets to play with all the special effects that get to happen in that scene and his costume is pretty amazing. I play the Ghost of Christmas Past, and the Ghost of Christmas Present is played by the lovely Rayanne Gonzales. She has this lovely … gown that’s emerald green. She is just pure joy. And the ghost of the future is also played by me.”
Each ghost has a human counterpart, like the Kansas farmhands in “The Wizard of Oz.”
“The Ghost of Christmas Past is represented by the doll vendor, who actually sells Scrooge a marionette doll that looks exactly like the ghost that comes flying in,” Moral said. “The fruit vendor represents The Ghost of Christmas Present, and the clock vendor represents the Ghost of the Future.”
Dubbed “A Ghost Story of Christmas,” expect plenty of spooky visual elements directed by director Michael Baron with scenic designer Lee Savage and lighting designer Rui Rita.
“I can tell you that being visited by ghosts means your’e going to encounter ghostly like things,” Wallace said. “There’s magic, there’s spookiness and–without being very specific–the journey he takes is a fantastical one. When he wakes up afterward, he thinks it’s a dream, then he realizes it wasn’t a dream. … It begins very much in realism, very much practical, very cold and clinical. That’s the way Scrooge leads his life. Then he goes to bed and his life is never the same.”
The sound design by Josh Schmidt creates the same dichotomy.
“The sound plays such a big part in the show,” Moral said. “In the beginning of the show, you feel very cold and closed off. I’m not saying that the carols are cold, but it seems a little darker in sounds. Then toward the end of the show it’s just joyous, celebrating music. … You’ve got ‘Deck the Halls,’ ‘What Child is This,’ ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.’ I love how the music is presented. It has a little beat going on in the background and it’s actually very catchy.”
Best of all, the cast gives back to charity, raising $836,000 over the past 10 years.
“This year it’s Bright Beginnings,” Wallace said. “They’re an organization that’s committed to working with families and children that are living in homelessness. While I’m [making the donation announcement], members of the company are making their way to the lobby and we encourage people to give a gift if they would like to. So far, so good.”
Giving to such a good cause is sure to put you in the holiday spirit.
“It is such a great tradition,” Moral said. “It is such a great story and a beautiful reminder that showing your fellow neighbors kindness, compassion and love is important, not only during the Christmas season, but every single day of the year.”
“That’s absolutely right,” Wallace said. “We forget that compassion and generosity are the foundations of what really bring us together. It’s easy sometimes to think about your own progress or your own wealth, but truly reaching out to others is actually a gift that feeds yourself. … The question is: Can we sustain it? The hope is that when we touch you, you carry it out and pass that feeling to other people. That’s our wish–that we can move people beyond the theater experience and into their life.”
Hear our full cast conversation below:
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