Charity Jones as Scrooge in 'A Christmas Carol' at the Guthrie Theater. Photo by Dan Norman
Veteran Twin Cities actor Charity Jones made history Sunday as the first woman to play Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. And what special history it was.
In the first of four scheduled performances in the role during the theater’s 43rd annual production of the holiday classic, Jones commanded the theater's thrust stage with poise, wit and empathy.
She brought out different qualities in the uber-miser, who is being played for the rest of the run with mastery by Nathaniel Fuller in director Lauren Keating’s tautly compelling update.
Jones’ Scrooge, who is still a man, is both more severe and more deeply felt. As the ghosts conduct the wealthy but isolated businessman through the stations of his life — past, present and possible future — the character responds with touching humanity.
Her Scrooge becomes glass-eyed as the Ghost of Christmas Past (Kendall A. Thompson) shows him his painful childhood, tearing up at the loss of innocence and his sister, who died, like his mother, in childbirth. Scrooge goes from snark to self-reflection as the Ghost of Christmas Present (Ansa Akyea) shows him that he’s both the butt of jokes by his nephew, Fred (Ryan Colbert), and an appreciated, if mean, employer to Bob Cratchit (Kris Nelson).
And Jones’ Scrooge becomes downright fearful as the Ghost of Christmas Future (Eric Sharp) foreshadows what’s to come.
The character’s transformation, from his severe visage when we first see him in a spotlighted cameo at the top of the show to the giddy, happy person we later see, is totally credible. Jones carries us along Scrooge’s journey step by step, inviting us into her character’s wounds, mistakes and, finally, his chance at redemption.
To celebrate Jones’ excellence is not to diminish Fuller’s performance. They are just different. And Fuller, more practiced in the role, elicits a few more laughs. But what Jones has accomplished is pretty special. And it’s worth seeing again when she dons Scrooge’s pants and top hat at the Guthrie on Thursday at 10:30 a.m., Dec. 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 13 at 10:30 a.m. Regular performances continue through Dec. 30.