With the Christmas rush in full swing, I avoid going to Makati and BGC, especially on a Friday night. Yet last week, we braved the TGIF traffic to watch Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical’s A CHRISTMAS CAROL. I missed it last year—I couldn’t miss it again. Luckily, the roads cleared enough that we arrived at Bonifacio High Street with enough time for a quick dinner.
In the Globe Iconic Store amphitheater, we stared at the lopsided brick buildings onstage and the oversized clock crowning them. People filed in, many of them families with kids buzzing with anticipation. I was excited—excited to see how they would top their production of Disney’s Newsies and to experience some snow.
Soon, the stage lit up and music swelled. Time for some holiday magic.
A Christmas Carol opens with an English town caught in the flurries of the holidays. Everyone’s merry and giving, except rich old Ebenezer Scrooge (Miguel Faustmann). He scolds kids, turns away pleas for donations, and rejects his nephew’s invitation to their Christmas dinner. As he says, “It has nothing to do with me.” Bah humbug.
On the eve of Christmas, the ghost of Scrooge’s former business partner Jacob Marley appears in chains. He warns Scrooge that he’ll be doomed to a similar fate unless he changes his selfish, miserly ways. Then comes an intervention of the otherworldly kind. The ghosts of his Christmas past, present, and future pay him a visit to show him the misfortunes that have made him bitter, the realities he has chosen to be blind to, and the possible consequences his greed may have on other people.
The folks at Globe Live and 9 Works really took me on a ride with A Christmas Carol. In the opening scene, they dropped me in the thick of the town’s holiday excitement, which reminded me of Christmas in the Philippines—families coming together over food, surrounded with lots of lights, colors, and music. Everything was bright and happy, but in came Scrooge to ruin the fun. Then night fell, and an ominous mist filled the stage.
As part of the audience, I knew that the ghosts were actual people and that this was a child-friendly play, yet I still felt a slight chill at how realistic the apparitions seemed. Each ghost had its own unique character, from the flamboyant Ghost of Christmas Past (Franco Laurel) to the jovial Ghost of Christmas Present (Nico Dans) to the manic Ghost of Christmas Future (Rissey Reyes).
Each haunting stoked different emotions in me—sympathy for Scrooge’s miserable childhood, disgust at how badly he treated others, and a mix of sadness and anger at the bleak future they painted. With each scene, they turned up the tempo, so that when we came to the appearance of his tombstone, I felt much like Scrooge probably had—exhausted, regretful, and convinced that there needed to be a change.
The original material is rich on its own, with Charles Dickens’ classic novella serving as a solid foundation which award-winning Alan Menken and Lynn Arhens colored with music. Yet the cast and crew really brought it to life with so much energy and creativity. I love how they gave it a modern spin, adding what felt to me like an ethnic, almost tribal element—particularly with the scene of the Ghost of Christmas Future.
They combined lights, sounds, mist, costumes, and movement to make a spectacle of the big scenes, but I also enjoyed the intimacy of the quieter ones, especially when it came to the family of Scrooge’s employee Bob Cratchit (Jon Abella). My favorite moments were the ones where I saw the vulnerabilities of the characters—young Scrooge (Diego Soler) left as an orphan, Bob Cratchit buying a Christmas chicken with his son Tiny Tim (Elai Estrella), and old Scrooge watching his nephew Fred (Arman Ferrer) with his family. I have to confess though, some parts of the dialogues weren’t clear to me because of the sounds.
I can’t compare this second run of A Christmas Carol to that of last year’s, but I can say that I truly enjoyed the musical. Director Robbie Guevara promised a show better than his last, and he and his team delivered. Miguel Faustmann amazed me with his unflagging energy despite his many quick changes. Blocking shifts, dances, even being lifted by a horde of ghosts looked all too easy for him, and he was perfect in the role of Scrooge.
Franco Laurel, Nico Dans, and Rissey Reyes were equally convincing in their roles, first as folks Scrooge ignored in town, and ultimately as the three ghosts of Christmas. I was especially impressed by Rissey’s transformation from the weak beggar to the wildly dancing Ghost of Christmas Future. Jon Abella’s performance as Bob Cratchit had me feeling for him both as an employee and a struggling father, and Elai Estrella charmed me as his sick yet happy son Tiny Tim. It was interesting to see the interactions between the veteran actors and the younger stars. I could feel how tight-knit the cast was and how they supported each other.
Before watching the show, I hadn’t read Charles Dickens’ novella nor seen any of the movie adaptations (at least, that I can remember). Now I understand why it’s such a holiday staple. The story hit me right in the heart. With all the outside noise and worldly perceptions of what it is to live a full life, it’s easy to get caught up in my own wants and needs and overlook other people. As another year closes, A Christmas Carol reminds me to reflect on what I’ve done, what I’m doing, and what more I could do—not simply in relation to myself, but for the people around me as well. And in this merriest of seasons, I am invited to give more of myself to others.
Enjoy the holiday spirit by watching A Christmas Carol with your loved ones! It runs at the Globe Iconic Bonifacio High Street Amphitheater on December 7-9, 14-16, 21-22, and 26-27 at 8 PM, and on December 10, 17, and 25 at 7 PM. For tickets, contact Ticketworld at 891-9999.
Scroll down for some photos from the play!
A Christmas Carol is a production of Globe Live and 9 Works Theatrical, with MUD (Make up Designory) as the official makeup partner. Special thanks to Bonifacio High Street.
A Christmas Carol is presented through special arrangement with Music Theatre International (MTI).