Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show

This time of year stages are full across the country with variations on classic Christmas stories, of which Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” is understandably the most ubiquitous. The Old Globe has transplanted the curmudgeonly Brit Ebenezer Scrooge to San Diego, sprinkling the script with regional references that had the audience rippling in laughter.

The excellent cast of five deftly handles all the various characters, with only Bill Buell playing a single role, that of the lead character Ebenezer Scrooge. Staged in the round at Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre Conrad Prebys Theatre Center, the 80 minute one act play moves briskly, efficiently and enjoyably through what can often be a much longer production. Credit Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen with the tight script, ably directed by Greenberg.

The minimal stage production puts the focus on the actors, each of whom performs with aplomb. Over 50 characters are assayed by the troupe of five.

George Abud as Medium Scrooge, Orville Mendoza as Mr. Fezzi, Jacque Wilke as Ghost of Christmas Past, Bill Buell as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Cathryn Wake as Lavinia in Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show, 2021. Photo by Jim Cox.
George Abud as Tiny Tim, Jacque Wilke as Mrs. Cratchit, Orville Mendoza as Bob Cratchit, Bill Buell as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Cathryn Wake as Ghost of Christmas Present in Ebenezer Scrooge’s BIG San Diego Christmas Show, 2021. Photo by Jim Cox.

George Abud magically shrinks to play Tiny Tim, and Cathryn Wake shines as Lavinia and Archibald. Kudos also to the ebullient Orville Mendoza (Cratchitt, Marley, Fezzi) and the versatile Jacque Wile (Gertrude Saint, Mrs. Cratchit).

What better way to relocate the action to San Diego than send Scrooge to California to earn his fortune? We get the best of both worlds: Victorian England and sunny SoCal. One of the favorite characters in the work is Scrooge’s former employer, Fezziwig. Here, the jovial employer is in the wig business, and is naturally called Mr. Fezzi. The in-joke works much better on stage than on paper.

Effective lighting (Amanda Zieve) sharpens the edge of the various ghosts. (Trivia answer: there are four ghosts in “A Christmas Carol,” most folks answer three).

As Scrooge’s temperament evolves, Buell explodes with mirth. Scrooge is likely the most famous stage character evincing an arc of his character, and Broadway veteran Buell evokes the change admirably.

And when you think the action is over, sit tight. The troupe grabs instruments and runs through a set of holiday classics.

This production works on several levels, so grab the whole family and make plans for the regionalized version of an international classic.

Ticket information here.

Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.