Theater Review: Studio Tenn’s A Christmas Carol

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Studio Tenn presents:
A Christmas Carol (Dec. 12 – 22; Ages 6 and older)
TPAC’s Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • studiotenn.com
Show times: Thu – Fri 7 p.m., Sat 2 and 7 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $25 – $52

More festive than the biggest turkey hanging in the poultry shop window is Studio Tenn’s newly re-imagined production of a beloved holiday classic, A Christmas Carol. Based on Charles Dickens’ classic novel, Paula Y. Flautt’s adaptation continues to shine, and while you may have seen one of Studio Tenn’s past productions of A Christmas Carol, you’ve never seen it quite like this on the Polk Theater stage at TPAC! While Studio Tenn’s past productions of A Christmas Carol have all been excellent, the expanded stage in Polk Theater makes a huge difference in that the cast has so much more room and movement to deliver even greater dramatic flair. In fact, for a couple hours, you’ll forget you’re in Nashville and think you’re sitting in a theater in New York. Studio Tenn’s production of this year’s version of A Christmas Carol could easily be playing on Broadway, and it’s a Tony-worthy performance through and through. It is truly that outstanding!

The fantastic 18-member cast portrays multiple roles, including narrators to propel the tale, and the show starts in Christmas 2013 with contemporary folks beginning the story and taking the audience back to the 19th century to see how it all plays out.

Nashville favorite Chip Arnold reprises his starring role as Ebenezer Scrooge, and he plays his character with a lot of intense passion and determination. He convincingly transforms his character from a crotchety old geezer to a newly transformed man with a real sense of heartfelt emotion.

Matthew Carlton also returns as Jacob Marley (he also plays Fezziwig and four other characters), and in what is a haunting tale, Carlton delivers a succinct Marley, gliding around the stage shackled in chains, eerily warning Scrooge to turn from his ways or suffer the consequences.

A true standout performance comes by way of 12-year-old Madeleine Hall as the Ghost of Christmas Past. It’s a brilliant move on Artistic Director Matt Logan’s part to cast a child in this role as this ghost is the one who transports Scrooge back to his own childhood. Hall gives a forceful, commanding performance with a dynamic amount of stage presence.

Jennifer Whitcomb-Oliva is the wondrous Ghost of Christmas Present, beautiful and jolly — and quite believable for a ghost.

The Ghost of Christmas Future, played by Savannah Frazier, is perhaps the most haunting as this ghost has no dialogue. Frazier’s staunch stage presence and constant banging of her cane — her only mode of communication — does the trick. It adds so much more to the character this year to see her rigid face versus a cloaked head in past productions.

Logan’s costume design is exquisite, especially with the three ghost, and his set design is outstanding. The use of the giant revolving turntable center stage is a smart move on Logan’s part given the fact that Scrooge is being whirled through time. Stephen Moss’ lighting design and fog effects help create the perfect ambiance for this incredible tale.

It is so much fun to experience this production on a larger stage, and while there are many holiday shows in theaters all across Middle Tennessee this month, Studio Tenn’s A Christmas Carol is a must-see for your family.

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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