It’s the weekend before Christmas. Leading-in to the last couple of days before the 25th, a group of actors is cozying-up a conference room in Oak Creek for a staged reading of the Patrick Barlow adaptation of A Christmas Carol. It’s an enjoyably breezy, little evening in Oak Creek that includes complimentary cider, hot chocolate and doughnuts. There’s an elevated stage, but the space feels distinctly like a conference room in a convention center until things get going. With no artificial amplification and no accompaniment aside from a few bells, the cast does an excellent job of painting a story with dialogue and narration alone. There’s no snow outside, but for a couple of hours it feels like a classy, classic Christmas thanks to a few actors.
Jim Pickering plays Scrooge. A longtime Scrooge for the Rep, his bio sets the count at 450 individual performances in the role over the course of 14 seasons. He inhabits the role quite nicely. George C. Scott and Patrick Stewart had made memorable turns in the role on video in the past, but Pickering is who I picture whenever I visualize the character. Without all the trappings of a full production, Pickering has a chance to really focus on precise intonations and vocal characterization which is a great deal of fun to watch and listen to.
Josh Scheibe plays a formidably tremulous Bob Cratchit to Pickering’s Scrooge. There’s a wit about him and his delivery of the comedy in the script that adds to the staging considerably. He’s bends characterization in a different direction as young Scrooge...a man on the verge of losing his empathy in Christmas Past.
Amie Losi isn’t given a whole lot of time to make much of an impression in the roles given to her. With what little she is given, she radiates considerable warmth in a few different roles including the Spirit of Christmas Past. Mrs. Cratchit and the wife of Scrooge’s nephew Fred.
Gretchen Mahkorn is striking as the Ghost of Christmas Present. She a roguish Cockney Dickensian party girl...which works a lot better than it sounds like it might. The role is more traditionally played by jolly giant Father Christmas-type. A younger woman in the role is fun and not entirely without precedent. (Who could forget a young Carole Kane mercilessly beating-up Bill Murray as Christmas Present in Scrooged?) Mahkorn also plays Scrooge’s first love and a number of Cratchit children all at once, each with distinctly different voices.
William Molitor has a voice that can be both quite gruff and quite tender. There’s the glow of compassion in his voice as Mr. Fezziwig. He conjures a much tougher edge in the role of Scrooge’s sinister, old teacher in Christmas Past.
Casey Westphal rounds out the cast as Tiny Tim...punctuating things quite capably at the end of the show.
The staged reading of Patrick Barlow’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol has its second and final performance tonight, Saturday 22nd at the Oak Creek Community Center on 8580 S. Howell Ave. The doors open at 6:30 pm. The show starts at 7:00 pm. For ticket reservations and more, visit Oak Creek Community Center online.