Editor's Note: This review was originally published in December 2010.
Chances are your children have already been exposed to A Christmas Carol in some form or another. As ACT's artistic director Kurt Beattie points out, the timeless story, written by Charles Dickens, has been "retold, adapted, updated, cartooned, turned into musicals and ads, chopped and hashed and consumed in just about every way imaginable."
My 7-year-old has been most familiar with the Jim Henson's Muppet version of Ebenezer Scrooge's change of heart. While I adore watching Kermit and Miss Piggy play the Cratchits, the English geek in me also wants my daughter to know the original human tale sans talking rats and singing vegetables (loveable as they are). ACT's A Christmas Carol pays homage to the classic novel that gave us the phrase "Merry Christmas" and manages to tug at heartstrings without being syrupy.
The intimate theater-in-the round venue is perfect for watching this play with children. With the stage located in the center, there isn't a bad seat in the house. Actors move up and down the aisles, make eye contact with audience members and pay special attention to little ones.
The sets are ingenious and the kids in the audience were immersed in Dickens's England from the moment the snow began to fall in the opening scene. My daughter enjoyed watching props drop in from the ceiling and flip out of the floor. She also loves plays that have children as well as adults acting in them.
I've held off coming to this production until my daughter was a bit older because I was worried about the scare factor. While this is a heartwarming tale of love and kinship, it's also a ghost story. The spirit of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's dead partner, is truly terrifying. This first ghostly visitor makes a memorable entrance, and I noted all the younger kids in the audience were suddenly in a parent's lap or clinging to an arm. Older kids waiting to be impressed suddenly perked up.
Happily, the trembles induced by the zombie-like Marley fade the moment the Ghost of Christmas Past appears in a glittering white dress carrying her crystal wand. The tale unfolds over the course of an hour and a half. There is no intermission, but the action moves along quickly. My daughter and I loved every minute, and the former English teacher in me glowed with pride as she dissected the similarities and differences from the Muppet version on the way home.
IF YOU GO
Where: ACT Theatre, 700 Union St., Seattle.
When: Through Dec. 30, Tuesday to Sunday, with various matinee and evening performance times. Some dates and times are already sold out.
Admission: Tickets range from $22-$55.
Contact: 206-292-7676; www.acttheatre.org.
Laura Spruce Wight is a former English teacher, Seattle-area freelance writer and mother of two.