The holiday is upon us. It’s time for Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas Is You on repeat, cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies, and of course, gift giving. During this time, cities from all over the nation are hosting various events to showcase their holiday cheers. As for the city of Houston, Alley Theatre presents A Christmas Carol as one way to spread the Christmas spirit.
A Christmas Carol was originally a novel written by Charles Dickens. Not only was Dickens a well-known novelist, he was also known as a public speaker and activist, especially towards the welfare of children. Dickens was born into a “lower-middle class family in Portsmouth, England” on February 7, 1812. As a child, he was “forced to work in a boot factory” as a way to support his family. Based on his experiences, he was inspired to write A Christmas Carol as a way “to encourage people to help those in need and to lessen his own financial woes.” His best-selling novel was finished in just six weeks and became an instant success. After a year of its publication in 1843, the novel “at least [had] eight theatrical stagings” in London alone. Since A Christmas Carol had such a strong influence on doing good to others, Christmas season became the time to promote goodwill and charity.
In the heart of downtown Houston, in the theater district, Alley Theatre presents their annual A Christmas Carol—Magic, Music, and Dickens! Walking inside the theater, I was instantly greeted with various Christmas tree decorations, each with different themes. People were gathered around the trees, admiring and taking pictures with their loved ones. With only less than 15 minutes before showtime, I went to settle down in my seat.
The theater was not too big nor too small. Any seat would be enough to see the entire play without missing any scenes. I took my seat in the left corner of the theater, facing the left side of the stage. With my husband settling down next to me, we were both eager and excited to see the play. My husband recalls going to Alley Theatre as a child with his classmates and he would always look forward to those trips. Now, as a full grown man, he was surprised to see how things changed in Alley Theatre, but still somehow familiar.
As the theater got busier, I could not help but notice how foggy the room looked. It was not too foggy where we couldn’t see our surroundings, but foggy in a way that makes the room somehow dreamy—definitely setting the mood of what was yet to come. Slowly, the lights dimmed, and the show was ready to start.
Overall, the play was definitely entertaining—I laughed along with the audience and may have teared up a bit towards the end. I enjoyed the carols, dancing, and even the witty dialogue between characters. The characters were the ones we know and love, yet each actor added their own twist and charm. Even though the actors were exceptional, it was hands-down the stage design that impressed me the most. It was simple yet very creative and captured every location from the novel. According to Artistic Director Rob Melrose, he wanted to capture Dickens’ vision and voice and that is when Scenic Designer Micheal Lochercame up with the idea of “miniature Victorian houses that allowed…to have the tremendous scope of the story and intricate details simultaneously.” At the same time, A Christmas Story is not your typical Christmas story. The appearance of ghosts and spirits make the story memorable and unique to its audience. Being able to capture these characters can be challenging on stage, yet Alley Theatre’s production made it possible for these characters to be alive. Thanks to Illusion Designer Jim Steinmeyer he was able to bring the ghosts and spirits appear and disappear on stage, as depicted in the novel.
Overall, A Christmas Carol is a story that is very much known and loved by everyone. As someone who grew up reading Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, seeing the play in person was truly memorable. The cast and crew of Alley Theatre’s A Christmas Carol truly captured the magic and Dickens’ vision by bringing this beloved story alive. Unfortunately, this magic won’t last long. A Christmas Carol is only available until December 30 2022. For more information, visit https://www.alleytheatre.org/plays/a-christmas-carol-2/.
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