ACT presents refreshingly new production of "A Christmas Carol"

If you’re not quite into the Christmas spirit yet, then I highly recommend that you join the Spirit of Christmas Present and that most abominable of all “NO” men, Ebenezer Scrooge, in American Conservatory Theatre’s wonderful re-telling of Charles Dicken’s classic Christmas tale, “A Christmas Carol”.

This year’s ACT production, under the artful direction of Carey Perloff, is very different in translation and presentation than in past ACT Christmas Carols. The sets and scenery designed by John Arnone are very stylized and fanciful, giving an even more imaginative feeling to a tale that in itself is a fantastical, whimsical, and emotion provoking story.

The story of the greedy and hard-hearted Scrooge being given another chance at personal redemption by his former partner, Jacob Marley, and the three spirits summoned from the nether-world, is pretty much the same as is typically seen, but with additional story added from the book.

Perhaps the most significant actor change in the show is in Perloff’s selection of lead Bay Area actor, James Carpenter, to play the part of Scrooge. While there have been many excellent actors dramatizing this part over the many years we have seen the show, Carpenter brings a definite personally poignant characterization to this wicked old character. I’m not sure that I have ever enjoyed a portrayal of Scrooge more than this one. His interaction with the characters that he visits through the magic of his mystical spirit-visitors (past, present and future), is really moving, touching, heartwarming and genuine.

There are a number of truly excellent characterizations that impressed me greatly, that set this production apart, including the portrayals of Bob Cratchit by Jud Williford, Mrs Dilber (Scrooge’s housekeeper) by Sharon Lockwood, and Amara Radetsky as Tiny Tim Cratchit, Mr. Fezziwig by Steve Irish, Mrs. Cratchit by Delia MacDougall and Steven Anthony Jones as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

This Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh adaptation of the Dickens’s tale has brought back scenes and characters cut from other productions and have modified and even removed scenes that are typically seen. The addition of the scene in Scrooge’s home, where he interacts with his housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, was definitely a bonus, but the removal of the final scene where Scrooge confronts Bob Cratchit in his counting house on the day after Christmas, about coming in late - - - feels like a definite loss.

Costumes by Beaver Bauer are quite excellent and the lighting design by Nancy Schertler and Sound design by Jake Rodriquez add significantly to the overall feel of this show.

The story moves along very well and the overall effect is uplifting and joyful. This production continues with performances on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday (December 23rd ), curtain times at 2 and 7p.m., with the final show at Noon on Sunday, December 24th, just before you will want to sit down for Christmas Dinner.

Call the box office at (415) 749-2228 or visit ACT’s web site at for ticket reservations and additional information. The American Conservatory Theatre (formerly known as the Geary Theatre) is located at 415 Geary Street in San Francisco. Be sure to allow plenty of time to arrive in San Francisco to find parking as the traffic in San Francisco is a nightmare at this time of the year. If you feel up to a walk of about 6 reasonably short blocks, then I would suggest taking BART to the Powell Street station and walking to the theater.