By: Paulanne Simmons
December 13, 2020: With the pandemic surging, many theater companies are celebrating the holiday season by steaming shows from previous years. So, if you missed The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s 2019 A Christmas Carol in Harlem, you now have the chance to watch a video of the live performance.
Shawn René Graham’s version of Dicken’s Christmas classic, directed by Carl Cofield, updates not only the time and place but also focusses on many of the social issues that beset New York City, as exposed by community activist Sierra Jones (Ure Egbuho) in the show’s opening scene.
Ebenezer Scrooge (Charles Bernard Murray) is now an unscrupulous landlord whose temporary rental housing units are destroying Harlem. Bob Cratchit (Jeffrey Rashad) is the doting nephew who works in Scrooge’s office and loves his uncle despite the abuse he receives every day. And Tiny Tim is Tiny Timothia (the adorable Emory Jones), who begs on the street so she will have money for singing lessons.
Even before Scrooge is visited by Christmas past, present and future, we know he has a problem with time when he visits the Clock Shop Lady (saucy, strutting Angela Polite) to pick up a clock he wanted repaired even though it is not broken, which she makes abundantly clear when she advises, “You set it. You wind it up, and you set it down.”
But, as we all know, Scrooge’s awful evening really begins when the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley (Steve Greenstein), arrives with moneybags tied to each hand, symbols of what he would not share when he was still alive. Although Scrooge (who is often quite funny, thanks to Murray’s timing and attitude) insists Marley is just bad cheese his body is having trouble digesting, he’s clearly shaken, but still clings to his belief that people in need are shiftless loafers who need to get a job.
The Ghost of Christmas Past is the cartwheeling, backflipping Eryn Barnes; the Ghost of Christmas Present, the glittering, declaiming Andrei Pierre; and the Ghost of Christmas Future, the veiled and sinister Kahlil X Daniel, who appears like Moses carrying the Ten Commandments. Together they get Scrooge to change his evil ways, aided by music, song, dance, video and impressive lighting.
By the end of the evening, when Scrooge has given Bob and his wife (Kenzie Ross) the deed to their house and committed to working with Sierra to promote home ownership, job creation and the arts, we are sure that God has indeed blessed us all. But the many people suffering under the current pandemic may be convinced Scrooge is really a conservative Republican refusing to pass the Covid Relief Bill, and they may hope Mitch McConnell will have a few otherworldly visitors some night in the not-too-distant future.A Christmas Carol in Harlem streams Dec. 7- January 3