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Holiday Fare with No Sugar Added: Lyric’s 'A Christmas Carol'

Jennifer Teel performs as the Ghost of Christmas Past in Lyric’s “A Christmas Carol.” Photo by K.O. Rinearson, for The Oklahoman
Jennifer Teel performs as the Ghost of Christmas Past in Lyric’s “A Christmas Carol.” Photo by K.O. Rinearson, for The Oklahoman

Lyric Theatre is presenting Michael Baron’s adaptation of the Dickens classic for a fourth season. This charming and well-executed traditional version of the story delighted the audience with beautiful performances and some nicely timed theatre magic. “A Christmas Carol” is fun, light, thoughtful, and heartfelt—just as Dickens intended, without unnecessary sweetness. It is heartily recommended for the whole family.

The story is told by the people of the town; some of the voices included Brenda Williams, who from the very start offered a pleasant and direct telling of the tale. Williams also served as other characters, including a charming Mrs. Fezziwig. Other townspeople take up parts of the tale from time to time throughout and also serve as story-makers by moving the walls and building the scenes.

Reprising his role as Scrooge, Christopher Bloch gave us a curmudgeon who makes a thoroughly believable transformation. Bloch’s Scrooge had initial hints of his own discomfort with himself, which made his vulnerability to conversion apparent. This is a welcome departure from the usual snarling grouch who becomes a jolly fellow because of what are essentially a series of nightmares. As the loveliest of nightmares, Jenifer Teel as the Past and Mandy Jiran as the Present provided both ethereal and solid performances respectively. Traditionally, no actor is listed for the ghost of the future; Lyric’s very spooky spectre was certainly persuasive.

Also returning this year, Tom Huston Orr provided a solid, thoughtful performance as Bob Cratchit. This role is particularly difficult, but Orr skillfully navigated the class issues that make Bob’s willingness to stay with a stingy and abusive employer understandable. Susan Riley gave us a very pretty and protective Mrs. Cratchit. Matthew Alvin Brown, as both the younger Scrooge and as nephew Fred, delivered his usual strong performance. The most emotionally affecting moment of this version is one shared between Fred and Scrooge, and the combined competence of Bloch and Brown made that ultimate moment of redemption and acceptance real.

Other standouts included Thomas E. Cunningham as both Jacob Marley and as Mr. Fezziwig; Cunningham very effectively sold Marley’s despair with his fate as the source of his terrifying aspect, and Fezziwig was also believably optimistic and jolly, with no trace of pollyannaism. Several performers doubled roles; Lexi Windsor portrayed Mrs. Fred and several other roles, Melissa Griffith played Belle and other roles, and both Charlie Monnot and Mateja Govich gave us several of the young men of the story.

The clever and effective set in the Lyric’s Plaza Theatre creates the mood and location for the audience. Once we are established in the marketplace, where people of all classes intersect, the very walls open and close to move us from place to place. Scrooge’s home, Fezziwig’s business, the Cratchit home, schools, graveyards, and a range of streets were each distinct locations with little or no interruption for scene change.

This fluid continuity is due in part to a very successful feature of Baron’s adaptation: the use of traditional seasonal music to effect changes of scene and mood. The carols used in the show and the original music, created for the production by Josh Schmidt, place us squarely in a 19th century English commercial town preparing for the holidays. Before the show, during the intermission, and following the performance, sound designer Brad Poarch has compiled some of the most effective versions of seasonal music to create and sustain the mood of the show.

“A Christmas Carol” runs through December 27, with performances Tuesday – Thursday evenings at 7:30, Friday and Saturday evenings at 8:00, and Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2:00. There are no performances on December 24 and 25. Lyric at the Plaza is located at 1727 NW 16th Street in Oklahoma City, and tickets can be purchased by calling (405) 524-9312 or through the website at