What the critics are saying:


Center REP's A Christmas Carol is Best Production Yet

By Charles Jarrett

Posted:   December 12, 2018

There have been many stage adaptations of Charles Dickens’ fabled Christmas story, but I would rate Center REPertory Company’s production of “A Christmas Carol,” currently playing through Sunday, December 18 at the Lesher Center for the Arts (1601 Civic Drive) in downtown Walnut Creek, CA., as definitely one of best I have seen.

There are so many aspects of this show that make it a delight and deserve accolades, including the lighting (John Iarla), sound (Jeff Mockus), choreography (Jennifer Perry), scenic design (Kelly James Tighe), and costume design (Bethany Deal).

Center REP’s version of “A Christmas Carol” is brimming with music and dance, love and laughter, spectacular special effects and even really scary ghosts, who, when introduced on stage, almost make audience members jump out of their seats!

Scott Denison directs a fine cast, headed by Michael Ray Wisely as Ebenezer Scrooge. Wisely’s reactions, especially when introduced to the various Ghosts, are priceless. Speaking of ghosts, the Ghosts of Christmas are wonderful – especially Kerri Shawn as the wise sage of Christmas Past and Jerry Lee as the lively and humorous Ghost of Christmas Present.

Ebenezer Scrooge begins the Christmas holiday with his usual miserly contempt, barking at his faithful clerk and her cheery nephew. But when the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come take him on an eye-opening journey revealing truths Old Scrooge is reluctant to face, he must open his heart to undo years of ill will before it’s too late.

Wi t h o u t a doubt, this year’s Center Repertory Company production of Charles Dickens’ play, “A Christmas Carol,” directed once again quite superbly by Scott Denison, is the show to see. While many theatrical productions evoke joy and good tidings, I don’t believe there’s any play that promotes and promises more goodwill and the importance of change among our fellow human beings than “A Christmas Carol,” a novella written by Charles Dickens in 1843. Set at a time of terrible poverty for England’s working class, “A Christmas Carol” perhaps was inspired by a visit Dickens made to Field Lane Ragged School, one of many charity schools set up to serve the needs of London’s street children. Even though Dickens doesn’t mention Ragged Schools in the story, the needs of the poor are depicted as a strong issue, especially with his principal character Scrooge, who represents the lack of compassion demonstrated by the wealthy in England. In the play, on Christmas Eve, Scrooge is solicited for donations to assist the poor. He angrily asks the two solicitous gentlemen if there are not still prisons and work houses. “I’ve been forced to support the establishments I have just mentioned through taxation and God knows they cost more than they’re worth,” Scrooge says, “and those who are badly off must go there, if they would rather die, they had better do it and decrease the surplus population – good night gentlemen!” This powerful testament against the lack of compassion for the poor and indigents still resonates today, most especially in our hearts as we observe the poor among us soliciting donations. “A Christmas Carol” is very near and dear to my heart. I even played Fezziwig in a community theater production many years ago and attended many productions by different theater companies during my past 31 years of writing reviews. Although very similar to the adaptation by Cynthia Caywood and Richard L. James that Center REPertory Company produced for a number of years, this production, I believe, is their best one yet. My approval was unanimously echoed by the multitude of children who squealed with delight, clapped their hands, and whistled as the actors brought this performance to a new height. There’s not enough space to congratulate individually the multitude of actors in this production who deserve special recognition. However, I must point out Michael Ray Wisely, who has played Scrooge in this production a number of times and has never been better than in this performance. Kerri Shawn is wonderful as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Jerry Lee is most delightful as the Ghost of Christmas Present; Brayden Bautista Toy is superlative as tiny Tim; and Scott Coopwood is deeply foreboding in his characterization of Marley and Old Joe. Michael McCarty portrays Scrooge’s former employer, Mr. Fezziwig with a joyful buoyancy, and Michael Patrick Wiles delivered a sincere, humble and deeply caring Bob Cratchit, who touched my heart in this outstanding theatrical presentation. There are so many elements beyond the actors that made this production soar to new heights, including new additions to scenery design under the direction of Kelly James Tighe, the highly innovative projection imagery and special effects by Steve Channon, sound effects and design by Jeff Mockus, and the lighting design by Jon Iarla. The choreography by Jennifer Perry added significantly to the many dance and street scenes. It also was a pleasure to discover that one of the co-adapters of this show – professional actor, writer and director Richard L James – was in the theater audience for this production. It’s definitely worthwhile to find a way to take your family, children and grandchildren to see this remarkable and uplifting show. “A Christmas Carol” continues Thursday with a 9:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. performance; Friday, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and closes on Sunday with a 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. performance. Tickets are available at the Lesher Center for the Arts ticket office at 1601 Civic Dr. in downtown Walnut Creek, or the ticket office outlet at the Downtown Walnut Creek Library. Find more ticket information at www. CenterREP.org or by calling 925-943-7469. Ticket prices are very reasonable, $28- $50. This production is in the Hofmann Theatre of the Lesher Center for the Arts.

Center REP’s “A Christmas Carol” Is a Perfect Fit for the Holiday Season

By Russ Mowrer

Posted:   December 13, 2018

Featuring a lively cast, gorgeous costumes, and brimming with delightful music, spectacular special effects and spooky ghosts, everyone’s favorite holiday tradition returns as Center REPertory Company presents its celebrated production of the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” currently performing through December 16 at the Dean Lesher Theater (1601 Civic Drive) in downtown Walnut Creek, CA. 

CenterREP’s “A Christmas Carol” features a multigenerational cast of performers led by Michael Ray Wisely as the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge. Joining this talented actor Scott Coopwood as the Ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge’s nightmarish late-night visitor; Michael Patrick Wiles as Bob Cratchit and Michael McCarty and Jeanine Perasso as the festive Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig; along with Jerry Lee and Kerri Shawn as the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Past, respectively. The children’s cast features Brayden Bautista Toy as Tiny Tim. 

Directed by Scott Denison, the creative team for “A Christmas Carol” includes Kelly James Tighe (Scenic Designer), Jennifer Perry (Choreography), Bethany Deal (Costume Designer), John Iarla (Lighting Designer), Jeff Mockus (Sound Design), with music direction by Michael Patrick Wiles. 

“A Christmas Carol” never fails to bring magic, hope and inspiration to audiences, and CenterREP’s version is no different. It has every ingredient quintessentially Christmas, including bright lights, a huge Christmas turkey, and even snow! While the Bay Area offers many wonderful renditions of this favorite holiday production, none leaves audiences with a sense of awe, wonder, and a smile as well as this one.