REVIEW: Huzzah! It’s Time to Celebrate ‘A Christmas Carol’ at Meadow Brook Theatre

Every year as the air grows colder, a debate starts heating up – when does the holiday season officially start? Is it when 100.3 WNIC starts playing Christmas music? Or is it when the switch is flipped during Lagniappe and the Big Bright Light Show illuminates downtown Rochester? In my opinion, it is neither.

The official holiday season begins when Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) brings its beloved version of A Christmas Carol to life. And the time to see it is now through Dec. 24, 2023, on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

Written and originally staged by Charles Nolte, the MBT adaptation has been delighting audiences and creating memories for over 40 years. Last year, Director Terry W. Carpenter said, “Every time we visit this holiday classic, we make new discoveries for ourselves in this story of forgiveness and redemption.” I couldn’t agree more.

Top L to R: Thomas D. Mahard as Ebenezer Scrooge and Stephen Blackwell as Bob Cratchit; Bottom L to R Chase Thomas and Conrad Nichols as Tiny Tim in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at MBT. Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

Sitting in the audience, I reflected on the idea of empathy. How often have we encountered a person with no empathy for another’s plight? Think about all the times we hear the different generations grumbling about each other. In the context of A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge (Thomas D. Mahard) would be categorized as a Boomer, who clings to his ideas of how society should operate. At the same time, those who seek aid from him would probably be labeled as Millennials who prefer a handout to hard work. Jacob Marley (Anthony Guest) shows up in terrifying ghostly form to warn Scrooge of the fate that awaits him if he continues his self-imposed isolation and refuses to change his selfish ways. And yet, even all that bluster falls short of convincing the old curmudgeon. It is only when the journey is made personal by The Ghosts of Christmas Past (Mary Magyari), Present (Tamara Della Anderson), and Future (Jacob Lipski) that it resonates with Scrooge, and he begins to see what has been right in front of him all along. Making a situation personal cultivates compassion and understanding. Sometimes we need others to help us see what we’ve lost sight of, but even then, we must be willing to change. Watching Scrooge enlarge his personal borders (and heart) to include others is what makes A Christmas Carol such a treasured tradition during the holidays—the possibility of hope that is buried within us and waiting to be shared with the world.  

Conrad Nichols as Tiny Time and Stepehn Blackwell as Bob Cratchit. Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

Two of the catalysts who unknowingly help Scrooge’s evolution are Stephen Blackwell who plays Bob Cratchit with exuberant enthusiasm. Here is a man who has every reason to throw in the towel. Instead, he chooses to stand firm and fight for the sake of his family. He is their hype man. Throughout the run, the role of Tiny Tim is shared by Chase Thomas (in his MBT debut) and Conrad Nichols. At my performance, Nichols shined in the role of the optimistic young lad who benefits the most from Scrooge’s change of heart.

No stranger to the MBT stage, Antonio Vettraino takes over the role of Scrooge’s unflappable nephew Fred and adds a youthful exuberance to the character. Meanwhile, Raegan Cantrelle (an MBT acting intern) steps into Fred’s wife’s shoes for the first time. Reprising their roles from performances past are Chip DuFord (Mr. Fezziwig), Stephanie Nichols (Mrs. Fezziwig), Phil Powers (Old Joe), Kristina Riegle (Mrs. Cratchit), David Schoen (Londoner/Merchant), and Kai Stidham (Londoner/Charwoman).

One of the truest delights of seeing this show is hearing the children in the audience reacting to the action on the stage. It doesn’t get more magical than that. Also, don’t forget to arrive early to enjoy the vocals of the merry coterie of carolers in period dress who entertain and interact with the audience. You may even be asked to join in!   

Back Row L-R: Sam VanKampen, Antonio Vettraino, David Schoen, and Jacob Lipski Front Row L-R: Raegan Cantrelle, Ginger Chanel Johnson, Kai Stidham, and Katy Kujala

As this production of A Christmas Carol reminds us each year, mankind is the business of us all. May we be mindful of that as we enter this holiday season. And may we carry it over into the New Year.

Terry W. Carpenter once again directs this season’s production with original choreography by Jan Puffer. Scenic design is by Peter W. Hicks, costume design by Mary Pettinato, lighting design by Reid G. Johnson, and sound design by Mike Duncan.

This performance runs for approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission.

Please note that smoke, flash, and loud noises are used. MBT has rated this show for all ages.

Tickets range from $36 to $49 and are available by calling the Meadow Brook Theatre box office at 248-377-3300 or going online at Groups of eight or more should call 248-370-3316 for group pricing.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at

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