Like Ebenezer Scrooge, no one was saying "Bah, humbug" after last night's performance of a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" at Fords' Theatre.
It is a bouncy adaptation done with fun and affection and wrapped up in a spectacular production for the Christmas season. There are dancing bed curtains, 10-foot-high puppets of ghosts and spirits, and a Jacob Marley who emerges from a wall safe surrounded by grasping, greedy hands.
This is not a faithful rendering of the Dickens tale. It takes liberties with Dickens and pokes kindly fun. But all is done in good humor, and only the most fanatical Dickens loyalist will end up out-of-humor with the adaptation -- and with the Christmas season.
A rotund Scrooge cavorts about the stage in his nightgown and nightcap, pinching a lady on the cheek and making wry comments as the past, present, and future unfold. A towering, black-cloaked figure with an eerily-lit skeleton face that looks like DARTH vader, the "Star Wars" villain, is the frightening Spirit of Christmas Future
As the program announces, this is a kind of "ghost story with music." The music is drawn from traditional Oxford carols and Benjamin Britten's music.
And there is the "Humbug Hallelujah," which sets the tone for the production from Scrooge's first "Bah, humbug." As Scrooge growls "Humbug" over and over, the chorus answers with hallelujahs.
Ron Bishop, who also directed the show, is a hearty figure of a man and has a slight problem conveying a sour, dried-up Scrooge at the beginning. But he is splendid as a mischievous Scrooge, peeking out from the bed curtains, and as the Christmas convert dispensing joys and gifts.
The Rae Allen and Timothy Near version of the Christmas classic allows the characters to begin narration and then to slip into the scenes. Geoff Garland, who is Bob Cratchit, carries off with dexterity some scenes calling for comic mugging with dexterity.
The stars have to share top billing with the larger-than-life-sized puppets created by Ingrid Crepeau.
Along with Marley's Ghosts and the Spirits of Christmas Present and Yet to Come, there are her six "humbug" people, with three heads each, that chase Scrooge across the stage.
There are a few places where the designers get carried away. At one point, some spirits seem to have escaped from the "Macbeth" witches' coven.
The production, lavish for Ford's Theatre, was helped by a grant from the Sun Company, which is sponsoring the Dickens adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" on public television. It will be seen on WETA Dec. 22 and Dec 24.
"A Christmas Carol" is scheduled to run through Dec. 23.