A Christmas Carol

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When a perfectly good version of “A Christmas Carol” is already being performed at the Hale Center Theater in Orem, why would a Utah County resident drive to West Valley to see another one?

Last year, one might have done this because the Hale Centre Theatre West Valley’s version was better: more special effects, more emotion, more humanity. This year, the opposite is true, and no one has to drive too far.

The West Valley production is certainly bigger, with that fabulous revolving stage and state-of-the-art sound and lights systems. You can practically feel Jacob Marley’s chains rattling, and the scene changes are remarkably fast.

It is the show itself that is slow and lumbering. Adapted by Richard G. Wilkins (who also directs and plays Scrooge), the play is wordy and has too much narration. Perhaps my opinion was colored by having seen the Orem version 10 days earlier, but at West Valley I was constantly reminded of how much more efficiently the story was told in Orem. I said in that earlier review that much of the narration is superfluous, but now that I’ve seen how bogged down West Valley gets, I should retract the statement. There’s extra dialogue, too, going on and on about things that should be arrived at much more quickly. (The scene with the people dividing up dead Scrooge’s belongings matches this description in particular.)

Wilkins is a spry, clownish Scrooge, instantly lovable even when he’s still a miser. The rest of the cast works earnestly to bring the play’s many words to life, from Tom Stam’s jolly Christmas Present to Tyler McGettigan’s adorable little Tiny Tim.

And for as unspectacular as the whole show generally is, the change-of-heart finale still has power to move audiences. I think there is something in the play’s message — which is much more than just “money isn’t everything” — that stands on its own, regardless of what surrounds it. As long as it is presented sincerely, as this production no doubt is, the sublime spirit of Christmas comes through loud and clear.

At the start of the show the night I was there, the fabulous magic stage lowered itself into the ground as it was supposed to, and then refused to come up again. They had to stop the production for about 10 minutes to fix it, and then everything was smooth again. I heard of a performance of "Jane Eyre: The Musical" being canceled several months earlier due to a similar malfunction; could the stage be cursed? Well, probably not, but still.

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