COURTESY KEVIN BERNEKen Ruta plays the Ghost of Jacob Marley in American Conservatory Theater’s 2014 production of “A Christmas Carol.”

ACT's ‘Christmas Carol’ a fine holiday tradition

As it does every December, San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater is staging “A Christmas Carol,” adapted from the 1843 novella by celebrated British author Charles Dickens. Every seat was filled opening night.

Now its 38 year at ACT, the play remains popular because it represents all that the spirit of the season is supposed to be. Directed by Domenique Lozano and featuring choreography by Val Caniparoli and music by Karl Lundeberg, the production – an adaptation by ACT Artistic Director Carey Perloff and Paul Walsh first presented in 2005 – features a lively cast of dozens of adults and children, gorgeous costumes (by Beaver Bauer) and wonderfully intriguing ghosts.

Expertly staged, filled with music and humor, a little dancing and plenty of fun, it’s quite the Bay Area holiday tradition, having been performed nearly 1,200  times and seen by more than 1 million theatergoers. It has employed nearly 2,500 actors and crew members to date.

It’s also a timely tale: As the curtain rises, Ebenezer Scrooge grumbles at his faithful clerk Bob Cratchit and children outside snow-laden window panes wave placards proclaiming “feed the poor” and “tax the rich.”

(Perloff has said, “As we have become more and more aware of the dangers of income inequality to a just society, ‘A Christmas Carol’ continues to seem startlingly relevant.”)

It doesn’t hurt that the show features some of the Bay Area’s most experienced, versatile and watchable actors, most specifically James Carpenter as Scrooge. He has played the character six times for ACT, and he redefines the grim-voiced miser each time, to the delight of the audience. (Another local favorite, Anthony Fusco, is the Scrooge alternate.)

Bay Area legend Ken Ruta, who played the part in 2005, returns as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s scary night visitor. Rounding out the top-notch cast are Nicholas Pelczar as Bob Cratchit, Delia MacDougall as Anne Cratchit and Jarion Monroe and Sharon Lockwood as Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig. Adding to the cast’s community spirit are students from from ACT’s Young Conservatory and master of fine arts program.  

REVIEW

A Christmas Carol

Where: American Conservatory Theater, 415 Geary St., S.F.

When: 1 and 5:30 p.m. Dec. 21 and Dec. 26-27, 7 p.m. Dec. 22, 1 and 7 p.m. Dec. 23, 1 p.m. Dec. 24 and Dec. 28

Tickets: $25 to $200

Contact: (415) 749-2228, www.act-sf.org

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