In their twist on the classic story, the role of Scrooge is not fixed to any one cast member

By Camille Bounds

Camille Bounds

There is “The Nutcracker,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” Even “Mr. Magoo” and “The Muppets” make it on our traditional Christmas entertainment toddies. Well, you must add “A Christmas Carol,” if you haven’t already. This delightful story written by Charles Dickens is served up with holiday turkey somewhere, someplace every year everywhere in the world.

Limelight Theater puts a fresh spin on the timeless tale of “Ebenezer Scrooge’s” transformation in its version of the beloved Victorian novelette. Their show, however, waves off the regular route and gives a different path to the original plot of three spirits guiding an accountant to redemption one Christmas night in London.

Adapted by Patrick Barlow and directed by Andrew Cummings, this pared-down production uses an ensemble cast of just five to bring the numerous characters to life. What makes this version unique is that the central role of Scrooge is chosen at random by drawing an actor’s name from a hat before each show, adding an element of surprise and relatability. This means the audience gets to see a variety of interpretations, from young Scrooges to old, female to male.

On the night I attended, South Valley acting talent Roberta Vinkhuyzen portrayed Scrooge with a spiky harshness that made the old miser’s journey all the more profound. As her Scrooge weathered visions from spectral guides, her emotional transformation by the play’s end was impactful for the audience.

The remaining cast members — Mason Bell, Denee Lewis, Bruce Pember, Stacia Stuart, and Christy Wright — shifted nimbly between roles, injecting humor and heart into each character. Of particular note was Mason Bell’s sweetly fragile take on the handicapped child “Tiny Tim.”

The sparse staging puts the focus squarely on the actors’ physicality and vocal characterizations. Clever prop work aids the quick transitions from scene to scene. While staying faithful to the essence of Dickens’ tale, the overall tone is irreverent and even chaotic at times. Yet this works to keep a familiar story feeling fresh. Ultimately, one can’t help but root for these various Scrooges and their redemption.

What could come across as gimmicky in less skilled hands instead works beautifully here. Somehow this “Christmas Carol” manages to feel unpredictable, hilarious, and relevant all at once. Even the coldest heart will melt as this production sneaks up on you. Far from a tired rendition of a holiday classic, Limelight has crafted a Scrooge and a show worth cheering for.

Through Cummings’ direction, Limelight’s “A Christmas Carol” succeeds as a funny, lively adaptation that still tugs at the heartstrings. He and his versatile cast have crafted an inventive take perfect for kicking off the holiday season. With its unpredictable casting and brisk pacing, this show feels less like an old chestnut and more like a spiked eggnog — familiar flavors punched up to offer some extra spice.

“A Christmas Carol” is a wholesome, pleasant story as well as a moment in time that should be seen and savored. Children and grown-ups will adore it.  Cynics might even get a little warm twinge in their heart — and, God knows, a warm twinge might be just the thing we need in these uncertain times.

Camille Bounds is the theater arts reviewer for Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life.