Theater Review: Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol—a contrasting look

By Edith McCauley

Theater Critic

Artists’ Ensemble’s production of Tom Mula’s version of Charles Dickens’ classic represents a stark contrast to the original A Christmas Carol while still maintaining a similar story line. Mula played Scrooge for seven seasons at the Goodman and became completely immersed in the role. Several years ago, a friend’s daughter asked why Jacob Marley was condemned for his behavior in life, while Scrooge received redemption. This was the inspiration for the original book that later was adapted for the stage.

Having seen the elaborate production at the Goodman, Kayt Free’s simple but innovative set intrigued the audience before the first actor appeared on stage. Consisting of a group of multi-level platforms, silvery gray, and lighted to provide the effect of many settings, her work is that of one just beginning her career. A senior in theater arts at Rockford College, she is thrilled to work with a professional company.

Stephen F. Vrtol III is Jacob Marley; Amber Gray, Bogle, an imp leading Marley on his journey to the past. Jamie Button is Ebeneezer Scrooge, and David Causey plays the Gatekeeper and Cratchit. A small but effective cast tells the story of Marley’s encounters with Scrooge and his efforts to change him in order to achieve his own redemption.

In speaking with Director Richard Raether, we discussed the importance of language in this particular work. As in poetry, we hear the nuances and emotion of the spoken word. We also talked of the success of the collaboration between Rockford College and Artists’ Ensemble. Amber Gray, a senior this year, is thrilled to have the opportunity to perform with such experienced artists. After graduation, she plans a move to Chicago to pursue a career in theater.

John Cobb, board president, is pleased to report that the financial status of the company is good. Subscription levels are up, and individual donations are strong. In times of financial difficulties, nonprofit groups are often the first to suffer, but quality receives support. Continue to give.

Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol runs through Dec. 20. Call the box office at (815) 394-5004 or go online at

From the Dec. 9-15, 2009 issue

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