Friday, December 10, 2010

A Christmas Carol : Northside Theatre Company San Jose : Nicely Done!

Dickens’ paean to the indomitability of the human spirit is the quintessential Christmas story. As such, it has been produced countless times by anyone courageous, if not foolish, enough to give it a try. That being the case, is it possible to bring something new to the perennial favorite?

Indeed, the creative folks at the Northside Theatre Company have more than a few tricks up their sleeves. Namely, a prodigious talent for lighting, sound and set design, and impeccable staging. Not to mention a keen casting sense that’s savvy enough to offer the central role to the inimitable Ross Arden Harkness. A better choice could not have been made!

Scrooge must possess a palpable gravitas to be taken seriously, and Harkness possesses it in droves. He pilots this vessel’s talented ensemble with the assurance of a ship’s captain. And his crew does not let him down, each performing their assigned duties with an infectious, unbridled enthusiasm.

Typically with companies this size, the pool of available talent from which it can draw can leave much to be desired. Remarkably, this little theatre company that could had the good fortune to harvest the cream of the crop for this outing. Supporting turns by Michael Swearington (Bob Cratchit), Melinda Marks (Belle) and Angie Higgins (Christmas Past) are particularly noteworthy. And Leah Kolchinsky (Martha Cratchit) has a singular stage presence that will serve her well as she hones her already considerable skills as an actress.

That being said, one would be remiss if I failed to address the befuddling performance of Timothy Garcia in one scene as the wildly flirtatious Topper. Although his comical approach remains true to the character as described in Dickens’ novella, Mr. Garcia adopts a campy, flamboyant tone that is glaringly out of place. To be frank, after picking my jaw off the floor it left me scratching my head!

Misgivings aside, of which there are few, one should not miss this exemplary little production of a genuine holiday classic!

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