As many times as I’ve seen Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol on TV, I don’t think 
I’ve ever attended a major professional theatrical production, so I didn’t want to 
pass up the chance to see South Coast Rep’s 28th annual production of the 
Christmas classic.

What a treat it was!

Lushly costumed (by Dwight Richard Odle), with gorgeous sets (by Thomas 
Buderwitz), lighting (by Donna and Tom Ruzika), and sound (by Drew Dalzell), 
South Coast Rep’s Christmas Carol is a production other U.S. theater companies 
would be hard pressed to equal.  And that’s without mentioning the outstanding 
cast, led by 28-year vet Hal Landon, Jr. as Scrooge and the vibrant direction by 
John-David Keller. Oh, and there’s also choreographer Linda Kostalik’s lovely 19th 
century dances set to Christmas carols and Dennis McCarthy’s original 

Opening announcements having been made over the sound system by Charles 
Dickens himself, the stage soon becomes alive with color and light, looking much 
like a Victorian Christmas card come to life with merchants touting their wares 
amongst other Londoners out for a Christmas Eve stroll.  Soon Ebenezer Scrooge 
arrives, demanding rent of an impoverished couple with the crabby words “You 
pay, or you sleep elsewhere.” (The often funny adaptation is by Jerry Patch, and 
not having the original by my side, I’ll give credit to Mr. Patch for the more 
humorous lines.  I rather think Patch came up with Scrooge’s explanation for 
getting ready for bed without a single light on: “I like the dark. It’s cheap!)

Buderwitz’s sets change almost instantaneously, quite possibly the quickest set 
changes I’ve ever seen.  In a matter of seconds, we are at Scrooge and Marley’s 
meticulously detailed offices, and then in Scrooge’s bedroom, and then in 
Fezziwig’s home.   (At Sunday’s 4:00 performance, the doorknob kept at Scrooge 
and Marley’s kept falling off, prompting numerous adlibs, particularly from quick-
witted Nathan Baesel, as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, with a great physical reaction 
from Landon’s Scrooge when, after having fallen several times, the doorknob 
finally stayed in place. Ah, the joys of live theater!)

One of the special treats in this production are the surprise entrances by the 
various ghosts, so if you want to be startled, skip the rest of this paragraph.  Marley 
suddenly emerges through what appears to be a solid bedroom door.  (Later in 
the show, Scrooge knocks on the door and it is indeed solid.)  The ghost of 
Christmas Past jumps out from a tightly shut chest at the foot of Scrooge’s bed. 
Scrooge has just lain down in his empty bed when the Ghost of Christmas Yet to 
Come pops up next to him.  There’s even a scary moment when two spooky 
figures, called Want and Ignorance, rise from out of the floor.

South Coast Rep has assembled a sterling cast, led by Landon, who is so perfectly 
Scrooge-like that it is indeed a joy to witness his giddy childlike delight at 
awakening a new man on Christmas morning. Daniel Blinkoff is warm and 
wonderful as Bob Cratchit, and the three spirits whose faces we see couldn’t be 
better—Tom Shelton as Marley, Richard Doyle as Christmas Past, and especially the 
rosy-cheeked Christmas Present of Timothy Landfield. At the performance I saw 
(the children are double cast), Zachary Diamond was adorably feisty as the boy 
whom Scrooge sends to buy the Cratchits’ Christmas bird, “the one as big as me.” 
(The adult actors speak in a sort of semi-British American English, the kids all sound 
American.  An observation, not a complaint.  There’ll be no trouble for youngsters 
understanding what’s being said on stage.)

Dalzell’s sound design is one of his best ever, with Christmas carols, bells, wind, 
clanking chains, thunder, etc. The Ruzikas’ lighting sometimes bathes the set in a 
warm nostalgic glow, at other times fills it with a cold and ghostly near darkness. 
(The couple deserve special mention for the way they illuminate the ghosts in an 
other-worldly light.)  Odle’s dozens and dozens of costumes are simply magnificent.

As someone who’s at the theater almost daily, it was a special pleasure for me to 
see so many young people in the audience being exposed to how superlative a 
professional production can be.  I am certain that South Coast Rep’s Christmas 
Carol dazzled them as much as it did me, and hopefully will plant the seeds of a 
love for live theater, or at least a return visit to Christmas Carol number 29 next 

South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive , Costa Mesa.

–Steven Stanley
December 2, 2007
 Photos: Henry DiRocco

Comments are closed.