Don't be surprised to see misty-eyed theatergoers at A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens' classic is all about redemption and transformation, and Children's Theatre of Madison delivers an affecting experience that had me dabbing away a few tears.
The show features lavish costumes from Scott A. Rott and evocative lighting by Matthew J.A. Kerr. Nayna Ramey's set is smart without being fussy; partial faades of buildings and windows are used effectively to create interior and exterior spaces.
In the opening scenes miserly and miserable Ebenezer Scrooge (played with gusto by Robert Spencer) savors words like "penalty" and "debt" in addition to his catchphrase, "Bah, humbug." Spencer's performance is a joy. Brittle and pinched pre-Christmas Eve makeover, he emerges a changed man whose every movement exudes warmth and generosity, whether clicking his heels in a happy jig, bouncing on his bed or hoisting wide-eyed Tiny Tim in the air.
Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve first by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley (an appropriately morose Donavon Armbruster) and then in quick succession by the ghost of Christmas past (Brittany Braswell, looking like a gilded treetop angel), the ghost of Christmas present (James Carrington, a particularly good-natured and jolly spirit, but then who wouldn't be in his sumptuous fur-lined robe punctuated with sprigs of holly) and the ghost of Christmas yet to come (Reed Gaines, reminiscent of the ghost riders in the Lord of the Rings movies). We get vivid glimpses of Scrooge's life: a dismal boarding-school experience, a demanding father, a holiday with the kind Fezziwigs, a true love lost, growing greed and misanthropy, and the inspiring kindness and love of the Cratchit family.
Director Roseann Sheridan has assembled an excellent cast. The production easily held the attention of the audience, including many small children who seemed very engaged and quiet.
Bells were chiming on a State Street festively filled with holiday shoppers as we left the theater, and I realized how touched I was by this performance.