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3 `CAROLS’ OFFER HOLIDAY DELIGHTS, EVERY ONE

SHARE 3 `CAROLS’ OFFER HOLIDAY DELIGHTS, EVERY ONE

Following are brief reviews of three Wasatch Front stage versions of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The two Hale Center Theater productions (in South Salt Lake and Orem) are pretty much straightforward affairs while the Pages Lane Theatre in Centerville is mounting a lighter musical edition.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Hale Center Theater, 2801 S. Main, South Salt Lake; continues Mondays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. through Dec. 23; matinees at 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 3 & 10 and at 5 p.m. on Dec. 16 and 19-23 ; also at noon & 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 17. Reservations: 484-9257. Running time: 2 hours.EBENEZER SCROOGE: THE CHRISTMAS MUSICAL, 292 E. Pages Lane, Centerville; continues Mondays and Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30 p m. through Dec. 23. Reservations: 298-1302. Running time: 1 hour, 50 minutes.

A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Hale Center Theater/Orem, 225 W. 400 North, Orem; directed by Merrill Dodge; continues Mondays-Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 3:30 and 8 p.m. through Dec. 23. Reservations: 226-8600. Running time: 2 hours.

- HALE CENTER THEATER'S 10th annual production of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" was a complete success and a delight. Richard G. Wilkins, who played Ebenezer Scrooge and directed the play, has honed the character of the skinflint and villain to a fine edge.

While the other players were equally proficient in their roles, I must make special mention of the children. Never have I seen local child actors maintain the narrative flow and intensity of a scene with such professionalism. When Jenell Slack, as Fan, little Ebenezer's sister, rushed into the schoolhouse to bring her brother home, I experienced the tangible joy of a young British lass. What animation! The scene ended on the stairs, inches from my face, and I watched Slack's eyes, wondering if she would be intimidated by the proximity of the surrounding audience. Both she and Scott Urie (little Ebenezer) were completely immersed in their roles and delivered their lines without a hitch.

I must also mention the pawn shop scene. This short scene alone would be worth the price of admission. MeriLynne Michaelis' and Clara Susan Morey II's accents - as the Laundress and the Charwoman - were as good as any illiterate Briton. Their physical presence and over the top gestures had the audience in stitches.

The musical director, Tammy Eves, deserves special mention, as does Scott Michelson for his costumes. Due to their authenticity, the songs and clothing helped create the opulence and poverty of England in 1843.

If you haven't purchased tickets to "A Christmas Carol" at the Hale Center Theater, you might want to reconsider your priorities. This play is worth seeing and experiencing.

- David Gagon

- PAGES LANE THEATRE - Now here's a rarity: a single-cast production of the venerable Christmas classic.

Again this year, Ralph G. Rodgers portrays a wheelchair-bound Scrooge, adding a slightly different element to the crotchety skinflint's curmudgeonly ways.

The story, of course, is basically the same as all the others. Penny-pinching Scrooge is visited on Christmas Eve by the ghost of his former partner (Eric Johansen as an over-the-edge Jacob Marley), followed by nocturnal visits from the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future (giddy Mary A. Rodgers, commanding Tony Porter and quietly ominous Nick Hansen).

This musicalized version uses five songs written by Pat Davis and Dean Murdock, first heard when Pat and Ralph were involved with the Promised Valley Playhouse several years ago. These have been augmented with three of the best songs from Leslie Bricusse's film and stage versions - "Father Christmas," "I like Life!" and "I'll Begin Again" - used with permission of Bricusse's agency.

The intimate theater-in-the-round is used to good advantage in the crowd scenes, where townspeople and urchins fill the stage and the aisles. Choreographer Tari Anderson makes excellent use of the tight space, especially with the energetic little waifs in "Father Christmas" and the rambunctious "Eulogy" number, lead by Tom Jenkins.

Only the role of Tiny Tim is double-cast, with Levi Whitlock and Jeremy Huntington alternating.

Mark Whitlock and Pam Christy are fine as the optimistic Bob Cratchit and his feisty wife, with Dave Marsden as Scrooge's nephew, Fred.

If Scrooge's joyous change-of-heart doesn't put you in the Christmas spirit, the music and dancing surely will.

- Ivan M. Lincoln

- HCT/OREM - A totally fresh and thoroughly entertaining rendition of this classic, this production is one not to be missed.

Chris H. Brower as Scrooge has an utterly fascinating face, especially as he tries to participate in scenes where he is only a visitor through the good graces of his ghostly escorts.

With his expression and heart, he brings a spirit and humor to Scrooge that are marvelous. Brower deserves an ovation for his performance alone - and he is supported by an equally talented cast.

Alan Sackett, playing Bob Cratchit, is very convincing in his role as the long-suffering but uncomplaining clerk to Scrooge.

At the same time, the direction and choreography of this show add dimensions and interest where one might fear repetition would wear.

Out of the mist, the cast of characters appear and just as suddenly take life.

The ghosts are particularly full of spirit. New treatments make old lines a surprise.

Period costuming is excellently done and the set is fun and totally charming, transforming the audience into another time and town.

And then, Tiny Tim, played by Eric Sackett (on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays) is poignantly sweet. He utters the well-known "God bless us, everyone" in a completely guileless and unforgettable child's song.

This is a must see.

-Sharon Haddock

- FOR OTHER PRODUCTIONS of the popular Dickens' tale playing elsewhere in the region, see the Calendar listings on Page W2. They're all listed under "Scrooges."