Every once in a while a newer Christmas show will appear that surprises and challenges. Written by Tom Mula, Jacob Marley';s Christmas Carol is one of those shows. In the Charles Dicken's Christmas Carol, Jacob Marley makes a brief appearance trying to warn his former business partner to change his ways. In this production, Jacob Marley is the main focus as we find out how a man, as bad as Scrooge, undergoes his own transformation into a spirit who is determined to save his former partner. Directed by Kathleen Vaught, and using four outstanding actors and a crack production crew, this has the potential to become a superior theatrical production. Note: other theaters present this with one actor.
The first surprise is the set designed by Randy Sandifer which is several platforms built at various levels. The actors move fluidly on, over, under, and around them as the story unfolds. They add to the depth of the story. The costumes, designed by Jennifer Stubbs, start with basic black shirts and pants, then are given additions like coats and simple accoutrements to create the character. The hats were especially delightful. Many of the costume additions were placed in handy places on stage for easy access and a quick costume change. Melinda Cotton's lighting is minimal using specific spots instead of a general lighting look on the whole set. This works well if the actors stay on their marks but can create darker spots as the actors move from one space to another. The lighting effect created for stopping time was especially effective. The addition of Multi-media in the background by Robert Stubbs helped add the ambience needed to create the mood of several scenes. The sound effects, designed by Kevin Vaught, were effective when needed.
Another unique feature to this show is the part dialogue, part storytelling. The actors use their own voice for story telling lines, and an accent or dialect for the character. This can confuse the audience, if not done well, but for the majority of the show they handled it well. That brings us to the actors. Kathleen Vaught selected four outstanding actors to present this show. Two are newcomers to ACT, Debbie Fu and Eric Levy. Both are experienced performers with available dialects. Debbie has previously performed multiple characters in the same show. Eric has had considerable prior Shakespeare experience. Debbie has only two characters to play but performs her angel with great charm and enthusiasm as Bogle tries to earn her wings. Eric plays three parts, primarily those of Scrooge. He is a welcome addition to ACT, and was most welcome as a replacement for an ill actor, fitting in admirably. The two veterans, Martin Mussey and Laura Jennings, were simply outstanding. Actors who know their way around the boards, and these two do, are required to play these roles. Laura Jennings was simply amazing. She performed eight characters, all with different accents and mannerisms. Each time she appeared it was a treat to watch. I especially enjoyed her portrayal of the Record Keeper and The Shadow. Martin primarily played the two Marley roles and two Christmas ghosts. His portrayal of Marley's agony as he transforms from a self centered scoundrel to a friend who guides his former business partner, Scrooge, to see the light, was superior and gut wrenching. There have been numerous tear ducts working overtime in the audience with his performance.
All in all this show was a tour de force with the creativity, intensity, and charm of a Christmas show worthy of the season.