There and Back: A Christmas Carol

Left to Right: Fred Sullivan, Jr. and Stephen Thorne with the children’s Green Cast in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with original music by Richard Cumming. Directed by Mark Valdez. Set design by Michael McGarty, costume design by Gary Lennon, lighting design by Karin Olson, and sound design by Peter Sasha Hurowitz. Photo by Mark Turek.

I am a die-hard The Muppet Christmas Carol fan.  It is and always will be the best film adaption of the classic novel. Michael Cain is the bar by which all Scrooges are measured. #changemymind… I also love The Grinch, eggnog lattes, gingerbread pancakes, and putting up my tree the day after Thanksgiving. So when I was presented with the opportunity to check out A Christmas Carol at Trinity Repertory Company, I grabbed it. I knew my five-year-old son Shiloh would be thrilled; he has loved every live show I have taken him to from Daniel Tiger Live to the Providence Festival Ballet, but I figured my four-year-old would not be interested due to the lack of muppets. And of course, I was wrong. 

We made it!

“But Mommy, I want to go with you!” my four-year-old whined.
“No Sam,” my five-year-old argued. “Mommy wants to go with me!”
And that is when the fighting started. After some circular arguments and tears on all sides, I conceded. Against my better judgment, I got a third ticket and prayed through my anxiety that this somehow would not end up with us leaving fifteen minutes into the show at the first sight of Marley’s ghost.

On Tuesday night, I put on my kids’ pajamas as usual and had them brush teeth. But instead of heading off to bed, we piled into our red Chrysler Town and Country and drove downtown. We arrived at the theater with a solid hour to spare after picking up our tickets at will call. So far, so good.

Making friends in our PJ’s

Once inside, I got juice for the kids and wine for me. We took up seats at the bottom of an unused staircase and settled in to watch Carolers dressed in top hats and bonnets sing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.’ Halfway through ‘Jingle Bells,’ we were joined by another mom, also wrangling two young boys. “Do you know how gravity works?” the eldest asked excitedly before launching into a second-grade explanation of space, matter, and the forces of gravity. I chuckled quietly watching Shiloh listen attentively to this slightly older boy. While the boys were busy ‘becoming friends,’ I started up a conversation with their mother. It turned out to be Rachael Warren, one of Trinty’s resident actors.

“My daddy’s the ghost!” her six-year-old grinned. “He might look scary tonight, but he’s not really. It’s like Halloween.” Sam looked confused but relieved that the ghost was somehow the father of his two new friends and not, in fact, a disgruntled spirit. It was kismet. 

“Our friend’s dad,” Mauro Hantman as Marley in A Christmas Carol at Trinity Repertory Company. Photo by Mark Turek.

Once in our seats, I was thrilled to find that every seat at Trinity is a good seat. It’s one of the incredible benefits of the small theater. The other benefit? The immediate sense of community and comradery we found ourselves in the middle of, especially on opening night. Anticipation and chatter filled the air around us. 

“Our son is the turkey boy!” The couple next to us announced in our direction, beaming with pride. I promised to keep an eye out for him and clap loudly. My kids’ eyes darted in every direction, taking it all in. My five-year-old turned his head to find one of the carolers from earlier sitting behind us.

“Have you ever worn a top hat before?” he asked him. My son shook his head. “Would you like to?” Yes, sir. Of course he would. Our night was filled with interactions like this one. From the moment we walked in, until the final song where one of the actors walked up to our seat to shake our hands, the actors made us feel like we had stepped into the show. As a freshman theatergoer, I knew why people come back every year. It’s like the Trevi Fountain. They say once you throw a penny in, your road will always lead you back to Rome. 

The Ghost of Christmas present shook our hands! (Fred Sullivan, Jr. as the Ghost of Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens with original music by Richard Cumming. Photo by Mark Turek)

“I can’t wait to see A Christmas Carol again next year, Mom,” Shiloh told me on his way home.
“Me too, buddy.”
“Yes!” Sam chimed in. “I loved to see the show with you!”
“Me too, buddy.” Sometimes it takes a while to notice a tradition is forming. Sometimes you can tell right away. This time, it was obvious. We threw our penny into the fountain, and we will definitely find our way back next November. 

Trinity Rep explodes with activity that feeds the soul and inspires dialogue through unparalleled theatrical experiences. Recognized nationally for excellence and innovation, and cherished locally for high quality and diverse programming, we are proud to be a creative home for Rhode Island’s artists, audience, students, and community partners. Trinity Rep’s annual production of A Christmas Carol has been a Rhode Island family holiday tradition for more than four decades.