It's a testament to the poise and professionalism of the cast and crew of "A Christmas Carol" that the opening night performance Friday at the Guthrie Theater flowed so smoothly. The show had technical hiccups, including a malfunctioning stage lift that necessitated old-fashioned scene changes by black-clad ninja stagehands.
Those adjustments gave the performance an elemental touch alongside its otherwise technical sophistication and special effects.
Filled with song, spookiness and a communitarian spirit, this "Carol" sings the joys of grace and giving. It's a valentine to goodness and the transformational power of ghosts.
The Guthrie last year debuted Lavina Jadhwani's stripped-down adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic with new music composed by Jane Shaw and an abstracted set by Matt Saunders that lighting designer Yi Zhao lights to suggest a bluish void.
The whole team returns again to fine-tune the work. This year's production, efficiently staged again by Joseph Haj to underscore the role the community plays in Scrooge's journey, completes the creative team's vision with more music, set pieces and wit.
As played by Broadway actor Matthew Saldivar, Scrooge is more a dashing leading man than the crimped-by-greed tightwad that we are used to seeing. In years past, Scrooge has been depicted by the likes of Daniel Gerroll, Nathaniel Fuller and Charity Jones as a sullen figure whose body looked like a scowl that had somehow been pumped into human form.
Pleasant and even amiable, Saldivar moves with a confident and contemporary gait — less Victorian miser than an aged Wall Street bro keen to check the gold in his safe. Such choices make the character more relatable to us even as it shortens his journey from cartoon to felicitous human.
Saldivar, at times, invests Scrooge with a fetching, almost childlike, innocence. The result is sure-handed and winning.
He is surrounded by a mosaic of talent including Fuller and Jones in other roles — Fuller as matter-of-fact Old Joe and Jones as the severe ghost of Marley visiting Scrooge amid lightning and thunder. Both deliver commendably. Ditto for the three ghosts who conduct Scrooge on his journey — Kurt Kwan as the grim Ghost of Christmas Past, Regina Marie Williams as the generous Ghost of Christmas Present and Andy Frye as the silent, even demonic Ghost of Christmas Future.
They conspire to deliver a ghost story that embodies a clash of eras and sensibilities — modern, ironic circumspection against the earnestness and sincerity of yore. It is to our pleasure that Scrooge, who goes willingly on his journey, so cheerfully wins.
'A Christmas Carol'
Who: Adapted by Lavina Jadhwani. Directed by Joseph Haj.
Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 2nd Av. S., Mpls.
When: 6:30 p.m. Tue., 7:30 p.m. Wed., 1 & 7:30 p.m. Fri. & Sat., 1 p.m. Sun. Ends Dec. 31.
Tickets: $29-$134. 612-377-2224 or guthrietheater.org