Tonight, there will be more than 500 performances of A Christmas Carol in the United States alone, and one of the most original productions is right here at Fulton Chapel.
The production that Dex Edwards brought to Ole Miss is not an adaptation usually seen outside of a psychedelic nightmare, but as always, he brings perfection to his out-of-the-box visions.
Everyone knows the story of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and remembers the warm, fuzzy feeling at the end when Scrooge turns that frown upside down and becomes a decent human being after all. While this production has the same plot as the original, the eerie effects of the glowing ghosts wandering through the shadows take the warm and fuzzy right out of the equation.
With Rory Ledbetter, assistant professor of voice and acting, as Ebenezer Scrooge backed by eight theater majors and one adorable small child playing the remainder of the roles, the small cast rarely falters with shifting from one character to the next.
Edwards’ concept is what sets this production apart from most. He takes an old family tradition and spins it into a twisted world of theater ghosts haunting Scrooge both as Dickens’ characters and as the real ghosts of Fulton Chapel.
Such a unique concept has to be backed by strong acting and a plethora of technical aspects. Luckily, Edwards is known around the world for his ability to take even the most bland script and bring it to a new dimension with his genius, and this show is no exception.
Furniture pieces and dress forms move on their own. Chains rattle as Jacob Marley, played by Sam Damare, makes his spooktacular entrance.
One aspect rarely (if ever) seen before this production is the flight between Christmas Past, played by Christopher Young, and Scrooge.
Instead of the average flight system, Edwards uses his budget and imagination wisely and uses a see-saw operated by other cast members to make the two “fly” over the streets of Camdentown. It is not a great feat to use a see-saw, but it is the ingenious way that Edwards reworks the expected and brings a finished product never imagined
The entire set, from apron to arch, is solid black. Stairs, platforms, doors, walls, all of it. This not only enhances the scare-factor of the performance, but it also makes the intricate period costumes pop.
The ghost of Christmas Present, played by freshman Logan Little, has one of the most regal coats ever to cross Fulton stage. From his grand entrance on a staircase full of food to his hardened stance above the action with coat on and cane in hand, everything about this character looks flawless.
Technical aspects, while the majority of this show, still could not accomplish anything without the actors bringing them to life.
Ledbetter is a wise choice for Scrooge due to his obvious age difference between the rest of the cast, but his performance was a bit dull and left a lot to be desired. He is rarely alone on stage and the enthusiasm of the surrounding cast members give depth and bring a lost sense of entertainment to the lackluster Scrooge.
Kelly Barker, sophomore and newcomer to the Fulton stage, is a laugh-out-loud riot from stop to finish. With her over-the-top dialects and grand gestures, she brings a bit of necessary comedic relief to the grim atmosphere.
Gavin Fields once again shines through as an up-and-coming force in this department. As one of the only freshmen in the show, he brings dimension to every character he portrays. He is generous with his emotions and gives the audience someone to root for, even knowing how Scrooge has turned out to be. No matter which character he is at a given moment, there is always enough in his character choices to differentiate.
Another stand-out performance is from junior and Fulton veteran Sam Damare. His strong stage presence serves him well in an ensemble cast by drawing the eye ever-so-slightly in his direction, even when the focus is not directly on him. However, when the focus is on Damare, he puts every ounce into his performance and gives the audience an unforgettable character and a stellar show.
A dark concept mixed with a family show is always a risk, but Edwards, once again, wraps up the semester with a must-see performance. Whether it is a break from studying or a way to get into the Christmas spirit, A Christmas Carol is the perfect prescription.
@ The Daily Mississippian — Oxford, Miss.