Trinity’s ‘Carol’: A welcome harbinger of holidays

Left to Right: Fred Sullivan, Jr. and Stephen Thorne with the children’s Green Cast in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with original music by Richard Cumming. . Photo by Mark Turek.

PROVIDENCE – Charles Dickens’ iconic “A Christmas Carol” has always proven to be markedly malleable, but the Trinity Repertory Company takes no chances.

They pretty much take the text and the script and start from scratch each year.

In addition to a new actor playing Scrooge and a new director taking the helm, there are also a myriad of other cast changes, a new set, new costumes and, each night, a new choir, as choirs from all over Rhode Island and parts of Massachusetts entertain and are integrated onto the production.

Trinity Rep’s “Carol” is 41 this year, and Stephen Thorne, in his 19th season with the troupe, co-directed last season’s production which broke sales records , and this season inherits the role of Scrooge.

Stephen Thorne and María Gabriela Rosado González in A Christmas Carol by Charles
Dickens with original music by Richard Cumming. Photo by Mark Turek.

A bit younger than most Scrooges and eschewing any makeup to make him look any older, his Scrooge is  brash and blunt, not to mention, nasty, scary and at times unhinged – hilariously so, snatching a coal scuttle away from a terrified Bob Cracthit (Daniel Duque-Estrada), informing some poor souls “there’s no begging on this corner,” then abusing his housekeeper Mrs, Dilbur (Tanya Anderson) and his laundress Mrs. Crummels (Maria Gabriela Rosado Gonzalez).

But when the time comes and the spirits have melted his stone-cold heart, he is also up to the challenge of transformation. Nonpareil dancer Taavon Gamble – a blend of strength, athleticism and precision –sparkles as he leads the way in yonTande’s choreography, which infuses the production with spark and sizzle whether it’s carolers, revelers at Mr. Fezziwig’s party or the celebration of Scrooges’ magical transformation at the finale.

Two of Trinity Rep’s most senior – and most able – actors provide great good humor in key supporting roles. Timothy Crowe is a cranky, forgetful, delightful Ghost of Christmas Past while the estimable Fred Sullivan Jr. is a hale-fellow-well-met as the Ghost of Christmas Present , and their interactions and original interpretations of the roles provide some of the show’s best moments, no doubt guided by director Mark Valdez.

Mauro Hantman is scary and then some as Jacob Marley descending from the sky. There’s solid support from Daniel Duque-Estrada as Bob Cratchit and others, Ava Gaudet as Mrs. Fezziwig, Louis Reyes McWilliams an an ebullient Fred, Scrooge’s nephew, and Maria Gabriela Rosado Gonzalez as Belle, the finance who breathtakingly breaks with Scrooge.

The color palette of the human race is reflected in the diversity of the troupe .At a recent performance, the Green Cast of children performed and they were fine across the board: They are Jeffrey Bento, Ahlyha Bright, Rylee Donelan, Odysseas Pavlides, Juliana Quadros, Addison Ralphs

The original music by Richard Cumming and period carols and music are performed by six musicians, some of whom appeared on stage as part of the show.

Michael McGarty’s two-level set allows for plenty of open space downstage for the lively production numbers.

Trinity Rep’s “Carol” is the harbinger of the holiday season, a welcome one each year, refreshed and renewed and given new energy, and an always-welcome way to sit back and enjoy a generous, healthy, two-hour dose of holiday spirit.

The Trinity Repertory Company production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Directed by Mark Valdez. Original music by Richard Cumming. Set design by Michael McGarty, costume design by Gary Lennon, lighting design by Karin Olson, and sound design by Peter Sasha Hurowitz. At the Chace Theatre, 201 Washington St., Providence, through Dec. 30. trinityrep.com.