Gallows Hill Museum And Salem Trolley – The 33rd Year of Scrooge
Christmas Ghosts With Local Flavor
By J. Smithfield Oppenheimer III/Photos by KWTKensington
Every year the Salem Trolley and the Gallows Hill Museum Theater get together for recurring performances of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The production takes place at four different venues, one of them being aboard an actual Salem Trolley.
This year J. Smithfield Oppenheimer III, along with photographer and fellow local theater aficionado Katherine Winthorp Tudor Kensington decided to explore this years production.
We arrived at Salemdipity during Monday nights snowstorm at the recommended arrival time of 8 P. M. prior to the 8:15 P. M. start. There were four others attendees there on when we entered. Browsing the store for a few minutes as others arrived for the show helped to pass the time.
Shortly after the declared start time Bob Cratchit himself entered the store. We were not at all surprised that his entrance was slightly tardy. Without hesitation he introduced himself and let us in on a little secret. He had surreptitiously placed a few extra of pieces of goal on the fire to help keep us warm in while in the office.
ACT I – Scrooge’s Office
Scrooge, portrayed by Mark Scalia enters the office and immediately discerns that the room is a little too warm. Two waifs, recruited from the audience appeal to him for a donation for the needy. He denies their request in Scrooge-like fashion but with an underlying gentleness that recognizes that the waifs are not being paid to suffer the indignities he normally would subject them to. Cratchit, played by Art Hennessey and an unsuspecting caroler by Brian Donnelly are instead the target of . Scrooges invectives. Scrooge is “held back” a bit in this scene.
Act I – On The Trolley
The move to the trolley means the Scrooge has a little more room to maneuver and can be properly Scrooge like. Scalia uses the first couple of minutes to establish a personal and Scrooge like humorous relationship with each member of the audience. Nicknames are given which will be used multiple times as the performance progresses. The appearance of Marley’s Ghost, portrayed by Ben Fuller, is well presented and somehow wonderfully lit as Scrooge retreats to the back of the trolley. He gradually makes his way back to the front as the Ghost makes it’s purpose clear and explains what Scrooge can expect as the night continues. Then it is the turn of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
ACT II – Gallows Hill Museum Theater
The Ghost of Christmas Past, a lovely and brightly wardrobed Lily Urquhart, brings us all to Old Fezziwig’s workplace where Scrooge apprenticed and fell in love as a young man.This Fezziwig is a happy and robust character leading a young crew of workers as they celebrate Christmas. A dance scene where audience members are invited to participate works well and is as an omen of things to come for our intrepid reviewer.
Young Scrooge as portrayed by Ben Fuller begins the act as an optimistic Scrooge dealing with young love and ends skillfully showing his descent into a bottom line businessman without scruples. Scalia as Scrooge also has a strong moment as he wrestles with his emotions as his fiancee Belle, well played by Madison Pais walks out of his life. He yells mournfully, but too late through a door closed by his own shortsighted greed. It is the Ghost of Christmas Present who jovially brings us into the next act.
The Cratchit home is where the Ghost of Christmas Present brings us. Brian Donnelly brings a fun flavor, with an unexpected German accent to this Ghost. Audience members are recruited again, this time to play the Cratchit children. It turns out that Tiny Tim is not so tiny after all. This scene is well played with Karen Scalia giving Mrs. Cratchit a strong turn. Her reaction to a proposed blessing for Scrooge as proposed by Bob is perfectly scathing even in her eventual acceptance of it.
This act goes back aboard the trolley as Scrooge is brought to his rendezvous with the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come. This scene ends at the Witch Trial Memorial on Charter Street. This last ghost, accompanied by the nights snow and cold air is as dark and ominous as expected. The grave robbers are properly giddy about their ill-gotten Scrooge spoils and revel well in the death of one who who had more and shared less than in life.
The performance ends on the trolley as we return to Pickering Wharf with Scrooge himself giving presents of chocolate coins to each member of the audience.
OUR FINAL THOUGHTS
Local theater is a gift that we in Salem, and around the north shore are lucky to have. This production is worth your time. Using the trolly to go from scene to scene adds an opportunity to break the fourth wall and bring a little more to the performance. The cast takes good advantage of this opportunity.
Tickets are available online. Tickets are $30 each. Tour departs from Salemdipity, 86 Wharf Street (Pickering Wharf), Salem. Please arrive 15 minutes prior to show time. Show starts inside Salemdipity.
Online ticket purchases can be made with this link.
Here is the performance schedule.