USI theater gives new life to holiday classic “A Christmas Carol”


Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Randolph/ Photography and Multimedia

Easton Crisp as Scrooge in USI’s “A Christmas Carol”. A Christmas Carol opened on November 18.

Sydney Lawson, Lifestyle Editor

The children were singing, the large audience was laughing, the lights were expressive, the sound was strategic, the costumes were eloquent and the Christmas spirit was evident. USI Theatre’s sold-out production of “A Christmas Carol” was the perfect mix of holly and haunting. 

“A  Christmas Carol” was performed live by the largest cast and crew since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USI Performance Center Nov. 18 – 21, 2021. 

USI Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” opens with a young family huddled near a fire on Christmas Eve. The father recounts to his family and a group of carolers the classic story of Scrooge, a bitter, stingy old man who hates Christmas. 

When the grandfather of the family makes a fuss about all of the noise, the carolers pull the family and the audience into Scrooge’s story. In order to avoid misery throughout the town and a terrible fate, Scrooge must learn to open his heart to the spirit of Christmas. 

I found myself enjoying “A Christmas Carol,” not for its plot, but for the clear talent exhibited by the cast and crew. 

After getting a behind the scenes look, I feared I would have a less exciting viewing experience as I had already seen much of the costumes, props and preparation. If anything, I found myself appreciating it even more.

Design is a key feature of any show, and the combination of costume, sounds, lighting, props, stage and special effects came together to take this production above and beyond expectations. The lighting and sound greatly added to feelings of fear, dreaminess and hope. The use of fog and a remote control door  contributed to the atmosphere the cast was creating. 

I was especially impressed with these elements when we were first introduced to the ghost of Marley, played by Noah Harrison. The ominous score reflected the haunting character with the rattling of chains and thumps of impending doom. The flashing lights and thunderous noise as Marley screamed into the night genuinely made me feel unsettled. 

The costumes crafted for this show were phenomenal. They created a sense of the time period and setting without either having to be explicitly stated. The costumes for the spirits of Christmas were especially astonishing, each one creatively reflecting the nature of the characters. 

I was sad to see the Ghost of Christmas Future did not receive any cast attributions in neither the display outside of the theater nor the program. While the ghost did not have any lines, the actor’s ability to achieve such an unsettling, haunting presence through subtle movements was impressive. I imagine performing in such an impressive costume with the bulk of a hiking backpack was no easy feat. 

Madalyn Cottrell as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Bladen Allbright as the Ghost of Christmas Present did an excellent job in their roles. Cottrell’s line delivery and formal movement about the stage gave her character an especially ghost-like feel, appropriate for a character representing times long gone. She seemed somber, almost resigned to the past. Allbright perfectly embodied the jolly giant sort of character with his boisterousness and merriness. 

Scrooge was an all-around impressive character, and Easton Crisp did a phenomenal job playing him. I would believe the makeup crew worked genuine magic to achieve Scrooge’s aged look. 

Crisp made significant changes between the voice he used for Scrooge and the voice he used for the cranky grandfather, a subtlety I appreciated. His expressions and mannerisms truly resembled a typical elderly person, making his characterization all the more believable. 

Throughout the show, I felt my heart squeezing with the empathetic message and sweet nature of the classic tale. The sold-out status of the show was well deserved as the performance certainly put me in the holiday spirit. 

The two Fall 2021 USI Theatre productions, “A Christmas Carol” and “The Mad Ones,” did not disappoint me. I highly recommend watching their upcoming Spring 2022 productions, “Stop Kiss” opening Feb. 17, 2021, and “Twelfth Night” opening April 21, 2021.