PICK! ASR Theater ~~ Sumptuous “A Christmas Carol” Returns to ACT

By Barry Willis

A fabulous San Francisco tradition has returned after a three-year absence.

Perhaps the greatest redemption story in the English language, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is back at the American Conservatory Theatre, and what a welcome it’s receiving. The show runs through December 24 at the Toni Rembe Theatre on Geary Street (formerly the Geary Theatre).

The sumptuous, big-scale production stars James Carpenter as the dour miser Ebenezer Scrooge.

James Carpenter (Scrooge).

Without question one of the Bay Area’s top acting talents, Carpenter is at his peak in his signature role, one he shares with Anthony Fusco in alternating performances. Fusco is also a supremely talented actor who should bring an unusual interpretation to one of the most hated, most amusing, and ultimately most loved characters in the theatrical repertoire.

Directed by Peter J. Kuo, riffing somewhat on Carey Perloff’s original concept, this Christmas Carol is a joy to behold, with a huge cast of 40 performers including many children, but also many veteran actors (most in multiple roles) such as Sharon Lockwood, Jomar Tagatac, Howard Swain, and Brian Herndon. Lockwood absolutely shines as Mrs. Dilbert, Scrooge’s bitter housekeeper, and also as the lighthearted Mrs. Fezziwig, wife of Scrooge’s first employer.

…A theatrical and spiritual uplift unlike any other…

Dan Hiatt is fantastic as the ghost of Scrooge’s business partner Jacob Marley, who appears early in the tale to warn Scrooge that it’s not too late to change his evil ways.

Dan Hiatt (Ghost of Jacob Marley) in A.C.T.’s celebrated production of the Charles Dickens’ classic tale.

Burdened with the accumulated heavy karma of his earthly misdeeds, he rattles his fetters and intones “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link and yard by yard . . . ” — one of the most potent warnings ever issued by a character on stage, and one that establishes the high-stakes drama to come.

The production sails along with astounding effects. The Ghost of Christmas Past (the glamorous B Noel Thomas) appears to Scrooge floating above him on a celestial swing (scenic designer John Arnone). Scrooge’s office is up a flight of stairs that he climbs repeatedly to lord it over his underpaid and oppressed clerk Bob Cratchit (Jomar Tagatac). Emily Newsome brings a charming sensitivity to the role of Belle, Scrooge’s first love, cast aside by his single-minded pursuit of money.

The cast of A.C.T.’s celebrated production of the Charles Dickens classic, “A Christmas Carol”, playing at the Toni Rembe Theater (formerly the Geary Theater) in The City.

This Christmas Carol revives much of the tremendous theatricality that has long been part of ACT’s annual holiday offering. The stagecraft is spectacular and the music and dancing totally delightful. Composer Karl Lundeberg and choreographer Val Caniparoli deserve accolades for their contributions, as do lighting designer Nancy Schertler and sound designer Jake Rodriguez. The show is a brilliant team effort by a huge array of inspired experts.

A theatrical and spiritual uplift unlike any other, ACT’s A Christmas Carol is a wonderful holiday tradition suitable for all ages.


Barry Willis is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and president of the SF Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle. Contact: barry.m.willis@gmail.com



ProductionA Christmas Carol
Written byCharles Dickens - adapted by Carey Perloff and Paul Wals
Directed by
Choreographed by
Peter J. Kuo
Val Caniparoli
Producing CompanyAmerican Conservatory Theater (ACT)
Production DatesThrough Dec 24th
Production AddressToni Rembe Theatre, 415 Geary Street, SF, CA
Telephone(415) 749-2228
Tickets$15 – $140
Reviewer ScoreMax in each category is 5/5
Aisle Seat Review PICK?YES!