'Tis the season for constant conversational references to classic Christmas shows. This time of year I can't seem to get through a conversation without a "bah humbug!" or being interrupted by whistling woodwinds from the Nutcracker.
And it's wonderful. Nice to know you can always count on certain things.
In fact, it's rather fantastical that our modern American culture is so drenched in shows that originated long ago, in other countries. That's America for you.
Last night I saw "A Christmas Carol" put on by American Theatre Company, at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. Even though every person in the audience must have known what was coming in every scene, it was plum delightful.
American Theatre Company's presentation is a reminder of all the reasons we love Dickens' story. The characters sing and dance between silly and serious with our heartstrings in the palms of their hands. I sat next to a little girl who giggled with delight at each of Ebenezer Scrooge's scowling antics. More often than not, I was giggling too.
Ebenezer Scrooge is portrayed by an excellent Karl Krause, who plays the character lighter than some versions we've seen. No stranger to A Christmas Carol, Krause has played Scrooge in many other productions, and it shows. From his mannerisms to his musical numbers, he is Ebenezer through and through, and it makes for a very special show.
Others to praise include Ed Burguiere, who plays Jacob Marley more intense and entertaining than even classic on-screen productions. Nick Perez as Mr. Fezziwig, Mark Cascairo as Bob Cratchit, Anna Newbold as The Spirit of Christmas Past , and Steven Fendt as The Spirit of Christmas Present, also give us memorably fine performances.
Topher Payne as Scrooge's nephew Fred and Anna Neal as young Scrooge's fiancé Belle are also impressive, but most fun to watch are the children assembled in the cast, who are adorable and enthusiastic. The Cratchit family children are especially talented, as they portray a rainbow of moods as well as sing and dance in a fun number called "So Much to Be Thankful For."
A Christmas Carol will continue in the John H. Williams Theatre of Tulsa Performing Arts Center Dec. 15-18 and 21-23 at 7:30pm, and Dec. 19 at 2pm. Tickets are $24-$30 with discounts for children, students, and seniors. To purchase tickets, go to myticketoffice.com or call 596-7111.
The Nutcracker also recently opened at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center, providing a second opportunity to see a classic holiday show. Tulsa Ballet provides this production, lead by artistic director Marcello Angelini.
"The Nutcracker is the only ballet in the world that has transcended the boundaries of dance extending its reach into popular culture," Angelini says.
"And every year a large segment of the population joins their local ballet company in this tradition, celebrating with The Nutcracker the arrival of the holiday season. Tulsa and Tulsa Ballet are no different, having performed The Nutcracker since 1956."
Angelini's production differs from most we've seen before. He went with a version that is closer to the novel by E. T. A. Hoffmann, rather than the more commonly known version by Alexandre Dumas. "I moved the story in the early 1920's in order to achieve stunning visuals, and reworked the story to take place in Paris around a young girl whose dream is to become a Ballerina and dance with the company's star," he says.
Keeping in connection with the original novel, Angelini hopes their production will share it's themes: "celebrating the victory of good over evil, love that goes beyond looks, and our birth right to pursue our dreams."
Angelini leans on complex choreography and a big cast including 120 local children, hoping to wow audiences with a more visually stunning version than what they're used to.
He also decided to shorten the second act. "I have seen far too many Nutcrackers where the audience got sort of bored half way through the show, performances that were a bit longer than the average audience member's attention span and, especially, performances that were beyond a child's attention span."
No doubt influenced by holiday spectacle and tradition, Angelini says he also found inspiration from our city. "Tulsa is a city with a pioneer spirit, its population has never been afraid to look beyond the status quo. Yes, we are a conservative community and yet we are like no other city in this country. And our Nutcracker is just like that: conservative yet innovative."
Tulsa Ballet's Nutcracker was also styled with an art deco feel, as a nod to Tulsa's art deco heritage.
Alfonso Martin and Wang Yi alternate for the lead male role of Marie's prince. South Korean Soo Youn Cho will play Marie, alternating with Ashley Blade-Martin. Alfonso Martin has danced with Tulsa Ballet for 12 seasons, while Soo Youn Cho joined four years ago, recently having recovered from a serious knee injury.
The Nutcracker will continue Dec. 18-19 at 2pm, and Dec. 17-18 and 22-23 at 7pm in the Chapman Music Hall of Tulsa Performing Arts Center. For tickets and details, visit tulsapac.com.
Also This Week
American Indian Theatre Company presents A Song of Winter, a play written and performed by local Native Americans. The comedy includes Christmas carols in their Native language. A Song of Winter will be performed in the Liddy Doenges Theatre at Tulsa Performing Arts Center Dec. 17 at 8pm, and Dec. 18 at 2pm and 8pm. For tickets and details, go to tulsapac.com.
Share this article: