Titan Theatre Co. artistic director Lenny Banovez announced just prior to last Sunday’s matinee of “A Christmas Carol” that for the first time since the company took up residence at Queens Theatre, all its opening weekend performances had been completely sold out.
A few moments into the performance the reason became clear: The production, in its fourth annual go-round at the theater, is beautifully adapted (by Banovez and Emily Trask) and directed (by Banovez) and played by a group of artists who fully immerse themselves in the world originally created by Charles Dickens. And word, apparently, has gotten out.
Only eight performances remain in the run, which concludes on Dec. 22, and they are selling out quickly.
The story is quite well-known: Curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge is transformed by a succession of Christmastime visits from ghosts representing the past, present and future. Despite the familiarity, this rendering offers many a surprising moment, demanding the attention of its audiences, who are feet away from the action.
Returning, once again, in the central role is the stalwart Michael Selkirk, an actor with a booming voice and an ability to play tender when required. He makes Scrooge’s transformation totally believable. And the moment he first utters the phrase “Merry Christmas” is alone worth a visit.
He is given strong support from the entire company, which includes many other returnees as well as several newcomers.
As Scrooge’s long-ago partner, Jacob Marley, who returns for a ghostly visit, Laura Frye adds another ambitious role to her repertoire, with unsteady gait and knees buckling under the heavy weights of symbolic chains.
The diminutive Gregory Couba makes for a particularly animated Fezziwig, humorously paired with the towering Christy Richardson, who matches his enthusiasm as his wife. They are cartoon characters come to life.
Marcus Denard Johnson is appropriately humble as the hardworking Bob Cratchit; Braden Spear is likable as Young Scrooge; the beauteous Maggie Wetzel is enchanting as the Ghost of Christmas Past, who takes Scrooge on a journey through shadows of things that have already been; and Jake Lesh makes an impression in a variety of roles.
Kudos, too, to the young players who look adorable, sing prettily and remain totally focused in their various appearances.
Physically, the show is gorgeous, thanks to the design team, all of whom collaborated on prior stagings of the piece. Michael Sabourin’s simple set is authentic and easily lends itself to various locations, with the shifting of a few sparse pieces, handled by the actors themselves.
The costumes designed by Lorraine Smyth are sumptuous and appropriate, though, perhaps, more could have been done for the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Katy Atwell’s evocative lighting scheme makes for some beautiful visuals, creating an atmosphere that is frightful one moment and joyous the next.
Sound designer Weston Wetzel’s contributions are particularly noteworthy, with plenty of special effects adding to the ambiance.
The brief interludes of dance have been choreographed by Frye and performed delightfully by the company. And thanks to the musical direction (uncredited), the singing voices, lifted in numbers both familiar and obscure, blend harmoniously.
It’s always a pleasure to revisit this tale, especially around holiday time. And this production, running a tight 90 minutes, would serve as a good introduction to theater for young people, with most of those in attendance on Sunday appearing completely rapt. A few brief episodes, however, found some of the youngest clinging to their mothers.