Review: ‘A Christmas Carol’ in Sussex, N.J.

By  Cynthia O. Topps
For the Times Herald-Record
12/15/10

SUSSEX, N.J. — Charles Dickens wrote “A Christmas Carol” more than 167 years ago. Did he foresee that it would endure and remain popular for so long? He certainly had no idea that it would be made into so many film adaptations.

Paul Meacham, artistic director of Tri-State Actors Theater, has adapted and directed in an inventive “A Christmas Carol.” The adaptation is presented by six performers who take the myriad of Dickens’ remarkable characters. The set, costumes and props ingeniously and resourcefully aid the action. The performers fluidly move from one role and one scene to another with practiced skill, whether narrating, performing scene changes or through background effects.

Each performer has a high point in the presentation. Jack Harris’ Fred, Scrooge’s steadfast and cheerful nephew, is excellent. His impassioned speech defending the celebration of Christmas would convince the biggest humbug.

Bill Edwards is a fine Bob Cratchit, but his true brilliance lies in the added roles of Marley and Old Joe. Kevin Sebastian has all the younger male roles, and his Young Scrooge is exceptional, particularly in with Lauren DeVore as his sweetheart, Belle. Sebastian is not nearly Tiny enough for Tim, but his appealing and gentle portrayal brings a smile or a tear. This holds true for DeVore as well. She excels in the younger female roles (Fan, Belle and Martha). Jacqueline Holloway puts her choreographer skills to fine use as Christmas Past but puts her best acting foot forward as Mrs. Cratchit. In the pivotal role of Scrooge, Meacham is equal parts cantankerous, foolish, contemptible, piteous and overwhelmed. His reclamation is wonderful.

The only problem with the production involves acoustics. When the entire cast is moving from scene to scene or when the sound effects are occurring, it is difficult to hear the dialogue.

The holiday season is not complete without Ebenezer Scrooge. “The happiness he gives is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.” So before you dot another I … go visit Mr. Scrooge at Tri-State Actors Theater.