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Chris Dinolfo (Tiny Tim)
Photo by Bruce Douglas.

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Five Stars! ‘Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol’ at Adventure Theatre MTC

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by Julia L. Exline for DC Metro Theatre Arts

Adventure Theatre MTC presents the world premiere of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens and adapted by father-and-son team Ken and Jack Ludwig. Seen through the perspective of Tiny Tim, this show puts a fun, family-friendly spin on an old classic. Jerry Whiddon directs a hugely talented cast in a production that sheds a surprising new light on a story we all thought we knew.

Scenic Designer Dan Conway meshes a handful of settings onto one stage; a backdropped snow-covered village is framed by floor-to-ceiling shelves containing teetering stacks of old toys and knick-knacks, many of which are used as props throughout the production. Sound Designer Neil McFadden uses a whole host of effects, from clip-clopping horses to whistling winds, and Lighting Designer Martha Mountain uses soft lanterns and candlelight to help set the tone of 1834 London. However, my favorite technical aspect of the show was the costumes, designed by Colin Ranney. I loved how the time and setting was respected (breeches and lacy neck ruffs, for starters), but the whimsy of a children’s show was also celebrated with lots of colorful fabrics, textured layering, and playfully-cut pieces. The costumes are fun, memorable, and in some cases, downright shocking. Puppetry is incorporated into one unforgettable costume that made me drop my pen and say, “Wow!” (probably a little louder than I should have).

The show opens with a cheerful trio of street vendors (Megan Dominy, Phil Reid, and Danny Pushkin) singing Christmas Carols (lead by Musical Director Wayne Chadwick). Happy, humorous, and full of holiday joy, this bustling street is a welcoming atmosphere. Tiny Tim (Chris Dinolfo) bursts onto the stage, greeting the audience with bright, friendly energy, and not a crutch in sight. Ten years from the ending of A Christmas Carol, Tiny Tim is the picture of health and vitality. He begins to recount his version of the classic story, which he names “The Year of the Scrooge.”

Familiar scenes from A Christmas Carol begin to play out, only Tiny Tim is closer than we realized. Lurking in a busy street, he sees Scrooge (a great performance by Conrad Feininger) rudely refuse to donate money to charity, and hidden behind a coal stove, observes Scrooge belittle his father and rail on about his disdain for the holiday season. Shaken and concerned, Tiny Tim begins to wonder if he can influence Scrooge’s character for the better, and with the help of some friends, he puts a plan into motion that will spin this classic tale into an entirely new light. Was Tiny Tim a minor role…or a mastermind?

I’ll keep the specifics of the clever twist a surprise, but what I will tell you is that the ensemble play out their roles magnificently. Their comedic timing receives laugh after laugh, and the actors handle multiple, fast-paced roles with excellent stamina and range. I particularly enjoyed Brittany Martz as Charlotte, a spunky friend of Tiny Tim, and Phil Reid did an amazing job with the diversity of his characters. The cast worked well in both their individual roles and as a creative team. As the set is fairly loaded, there were many items that costumes could get stuck on, and in a few circumstances, they did. However, I saw a couple of instances where a nearby actor swiftly and deftly untangled his fellow actor before they even knew they were in trouble. That’s teamwork!

For an afternoon of solid family entertainment, I highly recommend Adventure Theatre MTC’s production of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol. I had a great time and you will too! It’s a wonderful gift for the holidays! Take the whole family with you!

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