Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Diego

A Christmas Carol
Cygnet Theatre
Review by David Dixon

Sean Murray
Photo by Karli Cadel Photography
For several years, Cygnet Theatre has put on a powerful family-friendly telling of A Christmas Carol written by Artistic Director Sean Murray. One of the reasons it became popular was the acclaimed depiction of Ebenezer Scrooge by recently retired actor Tom Stephenson. While Murray starred in a 2020 streaming solo play that is currently available on the company's website, this is the first year that the artist is portraying the miser in his other adaptation, which premiered in 2014.

The cranky and cynical Scrooge lives in London and is consumed by greed and self-absorption. Following a Christmas Eve visit by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley (David McBean), he meets the ghost of Christmas Past (Eileen Bowman, Megan Carmitchel and Jasmine January), Future (McBean), and Yet to Come. The spirits take Scrooge to various points in time, so he can understand the consequences of his narcissistic actions.

All of the qualities that made the rendition a hit are intact. Murray's dialogue and lyrics and Billy Thompson's music (played by music director/accompanist Patrick Marion) capture the darkness and hope of Charles Dickens' classic novella. Murray features a good amount of prose from Dickens and depicts many of the famous parts of the original story. His direction is perfect for each scene, including upbeat moments that tie into the holiday (including a joyous Noel-themed dance choreographed by Katie Banville) and serious segments where Scrooge hopes to atone for his flaws. Although Matt Lescault-Wood's miking had some technical issues during the performance I watched, other elements by the crew were flawlessly executed. Andrew Hull's set and Jeanne Reith's costumes (coordinated by Sarah Marion) create a timeless festive atmosphere, and Colby Freel's lighting contributes heavily to sequences with Marley and the three spirits.

As the newest Scrooge in Old Town, Murray gives an expressive and moving performance through his acting and occasional singing. He finds the humor in the businessman's cantankerous attitude, and the humanity in the miserly man's path to potential redemption. On the topic of newcomers, Bowman and January get to show their range playing several characters throughout the night. McBean, Carmitchel, Patrick McBride, and Allen Lucky Weaver return to their roles seamlessly depicting colorful and poignant Londoners. The talent of the ensemble is on display during an early introduction, where the performers take part in classic carols and pun-filled jokes. I highly recommended that theatregoers arrive at least 15 minutes early to watch the fun preshow entertainment.

A Christmas Carol retains the spirit (no pun intended) of previous stagings, and features a fresh interpretation of Scrooge by Sean Murray. Cygnet's version continues to be a great way to celebrate the holidays.

A Christmas Carol runs through December 24, 2022, at Cygnet Theatre at 4040 Twiggs St, San Diego CA. Tickets start at $30.00. For tickets and information, please visit or call 619-337-1525.