Photo by Trinity Rep
By Carla Molina
Growing up in proximity to the Big Apple, the Rockettes was the holiday show of choice for families to enjoy year after year. When I moved to Rhode Island, I quickly learned Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol is the Rockette of the Ocean State. Every November and December, families return to the intimate theater space to see what innovative take Trinity has taken on this classic tale. They’ve been at it for 46 years and no two shows are the same.
This year’s most notable creative choice is casting a woman, Phyllis Kay, in the role of Scrooge which hasn’t happened since 2003. Kay played the part flawlessly and left me wondering if the part shouldn’t have been written for a woman from the very start. Her Scrooge is a ruthless businesswoman. At the same time, Kay imbues the character with a blossoming tenderness as she watches the various seasons of her life unfold with each ghostly visit.
The stage was pretty bare which in other shows might work against the story. In this production it allowed the audience to really hone in on the actors. The ghosts of Christmas past and Christmas present really bring the comedy. Each has a commanding, cheeky presence that breathes life into an otherwise sparse stage. In one scene, the actors take on the role of Scrooge’s furniture and it added an element of playfulness to an otherwise small moment in the story.
The show’s director, Aileen Wen McGroddy, made some incredibly fresh and poignant decisions with the direction of her production. There were the Crachits who brought a global element to the show with their Spanish songs. Then there’s Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and his husband, Lucas, along with their spirited group of friends who remind us this is a story with a universal message that everyone can relate to. Scrooge and her business partner are portrayed as the first women in finance during a time when that was unheard of. McGroddy has taken a classic tale and infused it with modern elements that prompt us to remember the joy and jolly of the season belong to all of us.
At the very end, Scrooge joins her nephew, Fred, for a holiday celebration. He welcomes her with a hug so warm and full it can be felt by everyone in the audience. That hug captures the essence of the show and its cast. It is heartfelt, sincere, and full of life. This year’s A Christmas Carol at Trinity Rep continues to be the trusted holiday show we all need to get in the spirit of the season.
Carla Molina lives in East Greenwich.