Wednesday, December 2

IRT: A Christmas Carol

This time of year welcomes many venues to produce holiday shows. I was fortunate this weekend to catch a new-to-me one and one of my annual musts.

The Phoenix Theatre, 749 N. Park Avenue, is serving up its fourth helping of holiday cheer in A Very Phoenix Xmas. A two-act menagerie of skits, with behind-the-scenes snippets during stage changes, took a fun poke at the holidays without being offensive.

There were many regulars, creating a warm sense of camaraderie with the actors and audience. The sidesplitting interaction between Sara Rieman (Shipwrecked) and Michael Shelton (The Pillowman) in the opening segment, Happy Hannu-Clog, is worth the ticket price alone.
A man with a shoe obsession, no relation to me, and his wife who attempts to explain how unnatural it is for a guy to go gaga over boots is an unadulterated delight.

Another standout piece finds Shelton and Rieman pairing up once more in The Forty-three Second Kiss, giving a glimpse into what happens after the office Christmas party.
Shelton and Amanda Lynn Meyer team up nicely in Death of a Snowman, a poignant moment
between a girl who has lost her mother and her snowman, who explains the circle of life in the coolest way possible.

To balance out the new, I went to, where else but, IRT for my annual dose of A Christmas Carol. Never tiring of the tale of why one should be kind and caring, IRT’s scaled-down, non-glamorous take continues to rank No. 1 in my book.

Turning in a solid performance is Mark Goetzinger as Marley’s Ghost, a role which, with Goetzinger, would definitely enhance the show with extended stage time and interaction with Scrooge.

David Alan Anderson’s portrayal as the Ghost of Christmas Present felt restrained, and I am unsure why the reins were held tight on this actor. The potential could well have been met if Anderson had been allowed to fulfill the enthusiasm of the character’s love of life’s joys and happiness.

The ritual of Christmas would be incomplete without Charles (Chuck) Goad at the helm of the cast as Ebenezer Scrooge. I asked the performer exactly what it meant to him to transform himself into Scrooge and, in turn, also become an annual tradition to holiday theatre-goers for the past 11 years. He replied that it is his dream role.

“It’s a great part because it has a unique emotional arc—the journey that Scrooge takes through misery and pain to love and joy is incredible,” he said. “I’m able to measure my progress as an actor in the part by continually looking for different and better ways than I’ve done it before. “In a way, doing A Christmas Carol is like being at the Fezziwig party. You can’t help but have fun. and fun is contagious.
Something happens in a theater under the right conditions that can’t happen anywhere else. A group of people come together and agree to empathize and to be moved by other human beings. That’s the tradition not just of A Christmas Carol or the IRT; it’s the tradition of theater. I’m honored to help pass that on.”

That philosophy explains why every year, instead of becoming stale and uninspiring, the performance seems to have aged…like a fine wine.

If you have an event or performance you would like reviewed, please contact me via e-mail at commnews@inmotion. net. Me, I will be right here, with my figgy pudding... whatever that is.

--This post was originally published under "Gotta Go" in West Indianapolis Community News and West Side Community News in Indianapolis.

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