I love Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I must have seen theatrical products of it dozens of times. This year I decided to go to Glendale Centre Theatre to see theirs. Glendale Centre Theatre is now in its 64th year, the longest continually-operating theatre in the United States. This production is their annual telling of this now-classic tale.
The theatre is a real little gem. The space itself is in-the-round with not a bad seat in the house, plus it is very economical at about $20 a seat. Brenda and Tim Dietlein, who run the place, have dedicated the theatre to wholesome, family-oriented entertainment. The acting, for the most part, is fully professional, and the house staff is exceptionally courteous, providing each audience member with special care. The atmosphere is welcoming and the regulars love the theatre. Even the snacks are exceptional.
So what about the show? I was more than pleasantly surprised. I feel they found the right balance between a cartoon version like South Coast Repertory's (with the exception of their Scrooge, Hal Landon Jr., who is wonderful), and more serious takes on the story such as the one-man show by Patrick Stewart which is basically a reading, acting out, of the text. This latter production is my favorite.
The production at Glendale is very satisfying. They have decorated the entire theatre and spared no expense on the colorful costumes. The story is all there and as moving as ever. If anything, the narrative has incredible resonance today given our economy and the number of people facing foreclosure and extended joblessness. Dickens reminds us to remember those less fortunate.
The acting is very good with a balance of the serious, the scary — yes it should scare us — and lots of humor. Owner Tim Dietlein plays a narrator as well as the Ghost of Christmas Present. His sons, Travis and Jaymes, are in it as well. Mario Di Gregorio is Scrooge. I wish he had had a little more fun with the transformation scene where Mean Scrooge becomes Happy Scrooge, but that is a minor complaint.
This is the 45th season for this production, and they have gotten it right. There is even snow inside and outside the theatre as the audience leaves. This is community theatre at its best and I recommend taking in one of their productions. A Christmas Carol plays at the Glendale Centre Theatre until Dec. 24.