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Chris Dinolfo as Tiny Tim, Brittany Martz as Charlotte and (standing) Conrad Feininger as Scooge.
Photo: Bruce Douglas

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All new Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol brightens the holiday

By Debbie Jackson for DC TheatreScene

Just when you thought you’ve seen the absolute final rendition of a Christmas Carol that you can take, another version pops up that’s irresistible—Tiny Tim’s is one of those. A grown up and healed Tim tells what really happened behind the scenes that changed the curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge all those years ago on the back streets of London.

The adapting playwright duo Ken Ludwig and his son Jack pin-pointed the key messages about appreciating life, and developed an engaging story line. It takes a bit of imagination to pull off, but the creative designers at Adventure Theater-MTC do justice to the beloved script with some surprising highlights.

From the beginning, nearly all the characters hit the stage portraying street vendors, jugglers, and storytellers creating the sights and sounds of old gritty London. Once the bellowing Ebenezer Scrooge loudly dismisses any semblance of jolly good will for the upcoming Christmas Day, Tim hatches up a scheme for old Eb to see the error of his stingy ways. The street comrades have each incurred the wrath of the penny pinching Scrooge and eagerly agree to portray the various ghosts of Christmas past, present and future to teach him a lesson. The result adds a layer of theatricality and creativity since the audience views what goes on behind the curtain in portraying the ageless scenes and messages.

Once Scrooge is awakened by the first ghost, we all sit in delightful anticipation wondering how the busy crew will pull this off –how will Scrooge experience the visions in his room, but that’s where the power of imagination kicks in. He takes a breath and steps out on faith, and it works. It’s also a stretch of make believe watching Tim miraculously transition in physicality depending on his role in the scenes— but he’s so adorable we’re all with him.newhighlights

The first two scenes of Christmas past and present happen as expected with the characters creating the scenes, but the last one of Christmas future kept us on the edge of our seats in silent wonder. Here is where the script provides the ultimate gift showing that the power of good will and faith (and great puppetry) can transcend old barriers and create a new reality.

With his indomitable spirit, Chris Dinolfo, who played the precocious Stuart mouse in the previous production is the enterprising Tim who, like a talented director, sets up the scenes. When he could be cowering to escape the frosty backlash of the compassion-less Scrooge, he instead stands up to the master’s tirades, trying to defend his father. Dinolfo embodies Tim with an energetic stride, even when using his make-shift crutch, and with a glint of mischief in his eye for a precious performance.

Phil Reid, also a hit in the Stuart production, again uses his physical prowess as the pie selling vendor, (who loves his own scrumptious dishes), eager to teach the old meanie a thing or two about loving kindness. Like a young John Candy, Reid’s elocution, mannerisms and asides add fun-loving zest to his characters. Danny Pushkin is another stand-out performer with a thoughtful rendition of his characters. Brittany Martz is a bubbly delightful Charlotte, and Megan Dominy rounds out the ensemble with her strong portrayals.

Last but not least, who would have thought that Conrad Feininger, yes, one of the most esteemed actors in town, would be in such a family production? The show doesn’t get a much higher pedigree than a Feininger –Ludwig- Whiddon collaboration, and somehow, they’re all here and deliver the remarkable goods.

With an imposing presence that can bah-humbug with the best of them, Feininger is also amazingly spry, bouncing on and off of the bed with ease. Whether heeding the spirits that beckon, or trying desperately to right his wrongs with the zeal of the converted, Feininger wrestles with the intricacies of his character with the same intensity that he brings to the classiest stages. Director Jerry Whiddon keeps everyone on their toes scurrying to pull the scenes together with impromptu excitement. Working with and off of each other, this well oiled ensemble has the collective chops to keep the ageless story popping fresh.
Dan Conway, another heavy-weight in the theatre scene designed the multi-purpose and scenic set filled with illustrious props by the talented “Dre” Moore, who apparently also double dips in great puppet design.

Costumes by Collin Ranney could grace the most sophisticated grown-up show—long flowing satiny dresses with full fledged bows on nicely sitting bustles, and the gentlemen looking genteel in colorful waistcoats, balloon trousers, knee socks, and of course, top hats. Ranney had a field day topping off the ladies’ hats with feathers and exquisite designs. Martha Mountain adds an intricate full range of lighting with glowing bulbs on top of tall candle sticks. The dream sequences for Scrooge appear ghostly pale, while the family scenes glow with hearth-like warmth, beautiful.

This world premiere script notes the importance of spirit, confidence and faith for a well-lived life, and stresses that what’s really important is what we feel in our hearts for others. With enough care and faith, if even a sickly, marginalized “Tiny” Tim can change the world, at least in this re-imagining, then we can all at least try to make things better. As seen in Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, anything is possible, and with enough spirit, the impact could extend beyond our wildest dreams.

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Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol Based on “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens . Adapted by Ken Ludwig and Jack Ludwig . Directed by Jerry Whiddon . Featuring Chris Dinolfo, Conrad Feininger, Brittany Martz, Megan Dominy, Phil Reid, Danny Pushkin, Jake Foster and Sophie Shulman. Asst. Director: Mark Kamie . Set Designer: Dan Conway assisted by Lydia Francis . Costume Designer: Colin Ranny . Props Designer: Dre Moore . Lighting Designer: Martha Mountain . Sound Designer: Neil McFadden . Stage Manager: Donna Stout . Produced by Adventure Theatre MTC . Reviewed by Debbie Jackson.

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