Number 46 may well be the very best of all those heart-warming productions of A Christmas Carol at the Omaha Community Playhouse. And that extravagant opinion puts me in the impossible position of trying to prove it more than mere whimsy.
But here goes: I’ve seen so many of the past productions and have so many fond memories of past performers from Dick Boyd as Scrooge to Sue Perkins as Ghost of Christmas Past, Al Dimauro as Marley’s Ghost and the likes of bearded Bob Snipp and others that it seems unlikely that I could find the current one my all-time favorite.
It helps to have Jerry Longe, now in his 16th year as the “new” Scrooge, still having fun with the miser’s redemption, and to see Julie Huff back as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Myrtle Crow.
But the easiest explanation, and not a particularly convincing one, is to report that it seemed that every delightfully familiar scene in this collaboration by Charles Dickens and Charles Jones offered fresh new touches, some humorous, some poignant and touching. They kept coming too fast to keep track but not too fast to fully enjoy.
Maybe all those touches were summed up when my wife mentioned her enthusiasm for the preview night performance to a Playhouse staff member who simply said, “The Becks are back.”
She meant director Susan Baer Collins and her former husband Carl Beck, the current interim artistic director and the former artistic director, back in Omaha to help. Add Ablan Roblin as another co-director and Steven Krambeck and Jim McKain as associate directors, then consider that scenic designer Jim Othuse has been on board from the very beginning and you’ve got the all-star ingredients for attention to every jot and tittle.
And, okay, I’ll confess, I’m a sucker for that final scene when Scrooge showers the Cratchit family with good news and then apologizes for not accepting their invitation to dinner. His excuse? After angrily abusing his nephew Fred earlier, now he wants to dine with Fred and wife, “my family,” a phrase weighted with meaning. If you’ve been waiting all these years to see Ebenezer resist redemption, stay home.
I attend each time hoping to keep from leaking tears of joy. So I’ll keep taking this sentimental journey and collecting new treasures of stagecraft such as the moment when the Ghost of Christmas Past looks at Scrooge with compassionate empathy as he begins to regret the path he’s traveled in life.
For every viewer, especially those who return to A Christmas Carol again and again, such moments will vary. Some, like my wife, will find the costumes by Lindsay Pape a special treat, for others the choral voices and the John J. Bennett orchestration directed by Jim Boggess will bring a different highlight at every performance.
From the little children singing “Away in a Manger” to the ensemble “Wassailing’’ away or reprising “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” it’s all part of a gift that the Playhouse has been giving us for nearly a half century.
A Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 23 on the Hawks Mainstage at the Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass Street, with performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, 2 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sundays. Tickets from $40 to $55 are available through ticketomaha.com or by calling the box office at 402.553.0800.