Associate artistic director Sean Daniels has, in his fourth year directing, now hit that sweet spot between the comfort of tradition and the novelty of fresh magic.
Dickens' story of Ebenezer Scrooge, the man who allowed his fear of poverty to nurture his greed and kill his compassion and heart until Christmas Eve visits by spirits show him the error of his ways, has been adapted for everyone from Jim Henson's Muppets to the Jetsons, but Barbara Field's stage play feels like ours. Because of Actors' audiences' long relationship with this show, care must be taken when adding or subtracting from the play.
The most notable change in this year's production is the return of the narrator (Fred Major), whose dry delivery allows the author's famous wit to shine. When paired opposite Scrooge (Bill McNulty, in his 10th season in the lead), their words practically glow with the original intensity of Dickens' text.
Indeed, McNulty's heartfelt portrayal of the meanest man in London grows stronger with every production, and it is his presence that anchors the play, his haunted face moving from darkness to light that moves us to tears and our own heartfelt resolutions by the end.
The addition of live music in 2008 added nearly 20 Christmas carols to the play, shoring up its timeless appeal, but in this year's production the music feels more organic to the show than ever. Daniels added a little spectacle for balance in the form of a Ghost of Christmas Past (Lindsey Noel Whiting, the acrobatic Chicago actress last seen at Actors in “Lookingglass Alice”) who twirls and twists in gleaming aerial silks as she leads Scrooge through memories both warm and cold, offering a touching emotional depth to the spirit along the way.