When a theatrical tradition reaches 40 years, critics tend to take cover. After all, how many times can we review the story of Scrooge learning the true meaning of Christmas on the snowy streets of early Victorian-age London?
Still, as I had passed on the production in 2013, I decided to take in this year's edition. It's what I expected: a well performed and designed holiday creation that retains its ability to entertain even after decades on the stage.
This is the "new" production written by Crispin Whittell, which is now in its fifth year, and J.C. Cutler as Scrooge and director Joe Chvala have been around for most of those years. While the freshness is off the show, it is still relatively tight and focused on Scrooge's journey and Dickens's message.
Cutler's ability to dig deep with his fearless acting has always made him a strong Scrooge, as he is never shy to accent the odious side of the character. This man is extremely greedy, doesn't care for anyone around him, and ignores even the most basic signs of humanity. On his long night's journey, his life is laid bare before him, and Cutler takes us on each step along the way, until his giddy transformation on Christmas morning erupts for the final quarter of the show.
There's strong support up and down the cast, including Kris Nelson returning as the long-suffering Bob Cratchit, Virginia Burke as Mrs. Cratchit, Jay Albright as Mr. Fezziwig, and loose-limbed Tyler Michaels as best friend Dick Wilkins and dimwitted Topper.
The movement-minded Chvala directs with an easy grace, and gives the show a strong pace is quick without missing any of the key moments.
In the end, the Guthrie's Christmas Carol is a bit like the Christmas sweater that keeps getting saved every year: a little gaudy, but comfortable to a fault, and worth pulling out each winter season.
IF YOU GO:
A Christmas Carol Through December 28 Guthrie Theater 818 S. Second St., Minneapolis $34-$116 For tickets and more information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online.