The latest production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol by Dallas Theater Center at the Wyly Theatre will make you forget ghosts of Carols past. DTC artistic director Kevin Moriarty has adapted the familiar story his way, with pointed political commentary about the plight of the poor and a noticeable emphasis on the message that "the world is becoming a hard and cruel place," where people are used like machines and the rich begrudge the working poor the smallest perks and privileges. Like getting holidays off.
Directed by DTC company member Lee Trull, the show is large-scale spectacular, scattering actors (who also play instruments) all over the Wyly's balconies and catwalks and even into the air. Jacob Marley's ghost (played with great vocal texture by Cameron Cobb) and the Ghost of Christmas Present (confident 9-year-old Salma Salinas at the preview reviewed) leave the ground assisted by Flying by Foy, the technicians who've created theatrical flying effects going back to Mary Martin in Peter Pan. Watching a sparkly little ghost tumbling overhead definitely adds zing to the visuals. Lighting by Jeff Croiter is dramatic and precise.
Tony winner Beowulf Borritt's massive, industrial-heavy scenery creates surprising entrances and exits for major characters, including Ebenezer Scrooge (resident company member Chamblee Ferguson), who rises into view on a towering hydraulic platform. It later becomes the four-poster bed on which Scrooge is visited by the three Christmas Eve spirits who guide him through a review of his life as a miser running a sweatshop where children scrub floors and stoke coal fires. And sometimes drop dead at his feet.
Traditional carols are sung throughout and everyone stomps and reels in the Fezziwig party scene, where choreographer Jeremy Dumont has them clapping and dancing against the beats, which feels fresh and looks like fun. Seth Magill of the Dallas band Home by Hovercraft gets a romantic turn as Scrooge's kindhearted nephew. Local stars Lydia Mackay and Daniel Duque-Estrada play the Cratchits, now both working for Scrooge and trying to keep Tiny Tim (precious Christena Adkins, alternating with Reed Emmons) alive on a diet of warm hugs and cold gruel. Julie Johnson is a stitch as Scrooge's housekeeper, Mrs. Dilber, who bears a strong resemblance to Downton's Mrs. Patmore -- with icier glares.
Moriarty and Trull make this the fastest Carol in recent memory. Scrooge sees the ghosts and opens his heart and moneybox in a brisk 90 minutes (no intermission). Express train to the final chorus of "Auld Lang Syne," all aboard!
A Christmas Carol continues through December 27 at Dallas Theater Center, Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora St. Tickets, $25-$110, 214-880-0202.