The Hale Center Theater Orem performs “A Christmas Carol” each year with little variation, I hope you’ll forgive me for writing a review that is not much different from the ones I wrote in 1999 and 1998.
The play, now a tradition for many families, is more a pageant than anything else. Little attempt is made to develop depth of character. Most of the narration is superfluous, as whenever he tells us something, we then see the characters enact that very thing anyway. (“Scrooge is mean.” Then, a scene in which Scrooge is mean.) There is much Christmas caroling that is narratively ineffective, but perfect for setting the mood.
And that’s the key here. The point is not to make audiences walk out saying, “That’s the most thought-provoking, exhilirating theater experience I’ve ever had.” You want them to walk out saying, “I have never been as full of the Christmas spirit as I am now!” By the end of the show, when a repentant Scrooge is distributing gifts with great giddy delight, it would difficult not to be swept up in at all. The show is joyful and unabashedly heartfelt.
Merrill Dodge (also director) is a rather buffoonish Scrooge, not so much fierce as he is grumpy. His beleaguered clerk, the weak, simpering Bob Cratchit, is played by Gavin Grooms (the only role not double-cast).
We will also mention Josh Romney as Young Scrooge, seen during the “Ghost of Christmas Past” segment, who exhibits quite a bit of talent as a charming young man who is on the verge of becoming miserly. He and Sam Dodge as Dick Wilkins have a very enjoyable scene together in which they fight the way a couple teen-age friends would — another pointless excursion, plot-wise, but awfully fun to watch nonetheless.
Mike Gray is a treat, too, as Christmas Present and a few other roles. His booming laugh and infectious energy are a highlight of the show.
Do you want to make this a yearly tradition for YOUR family? Theatrical shortcomings aside, it gets a lot of things right, too, like fantastic costumes and effective use of sound. And if your aim is just to get into the Christmas spirit, then you couldn’t do much better than this.
Scrooge seems less fierce and more goofy to me each time I see this play. He's mean for about five minutes, and then as soon as the first ghost shows up, he's begging for a second chance at redemption. What a wuss.