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A CHRISTMAS CAROL at The Shaw Festival sets the standard for staging, puppets, and special effects, with a new Scrooge.

THE BASICS: A CHRISTMAS CAROL, by Charles Dickens, adapted and directed by Tim Carroll, presented by The Shaw Festival, starring Michael Therriault as Scrooge, runs through December 23, at a wide variety of days and times (see website) at The Royal George Theatre, 85 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON L0S 1J0, Canada (1.800.511.7429) www.shawfest.com Runtime: Approx. 90 minutes with one intermission

THUMBNAIL SKETCH: We all know the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and the three spirits, etc. so, apart from nostalgia, why would you want to see another CHRISTMAS CAROL? For the casting, primarily Scrooge, and to see the presentation of the ghosts, who here are completely reimagined with special Shaw magic, on a swirling set, and that Tim Carroll “immersive” experience in the quaint and intimate Royal George, in quaint and intimate Niagara-on-the-Lake. That’s why.

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: The Shaw thanks “… everyone at the National Theatre of Bergen, Norway, where an earlier version of this show was staged… Cratchit family puppets crafted by Mandarava Butlin. Additional puppets crafted in the workshops of Den Nationale Scene [of Norway].” And, credits are given for Movement and puppetry to Alexis Milligan, who just came to The Shaw last spring, but looking at her credits, we hope she sticks around.

The entire cast, with photos and bios, can be seen on the Shaw website, but, with any performance, whether it’s the movie with Alastair Sim, the one with George C. Scott, or, my favorite, the live/animation version with Michael Caine and The Muppets, as you just read, one identifies one’s CHRISTMAS CAROLS by who plays Scrooge, and here it’s one of the new Shaw stars, Michael Therriault, who was this summer in ME AND MY GIRL. I got to ask Mr. Therriault if, with the non-stop pratfalls and other schtick in GIRL, he didn’t get exhausted. He said, no, actually, he gets so much energy from the audience, the more physical he gets, the more the audience loves it, and the more it feeds him. Well, it’s a formula that works.

I really don’t know how to tell you what happens without screaming “Spoiler Alert” over and over, but suffice it to say, you ain’t seen A CHRISTMAS CAROL like this before. From the sets, the costumes, the lighting, the music, the puppets, the singing, it’s a delight, as they say, for ages 8 to 80.

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

Written by Peter Hall

Peter Hall

Peter Hall continues trying to figure out how "it" all works. For 20 years, as program host on Classical 94.5 WNED and continuing on-stage with the Buffalo Chamber Music Society, he's conducted over 1,000 interviews with artists as he asks them to explain, in layman's terms, "what's the big picture here?"

As mentioned recently in Buffalo Spree magazine, Peter's "Buffalo Rising reviews are the no-holds barred 'everyman's' take." And, on “Theater Talk” (heard Friday mornings at 6:45 and 8:45 a.m. on WBFO 88.7 FM and Saturday afternoons at 5:55 p.m. on Classical 94.5 WNED) his favorite question of co-host Anthony Chase is simply "What's goin' on?"

A member of Buffalo's Artie Awards Committee, Peter holds a B.A. in Comparative Literature from Columbia University and an M.B.A. from SUNY at Buffalo. For over twenty-five years he has been an adjunct professor for Canisius College’s Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

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