REVIEW: Meadow Brook Theatre Brings Hope and Joy Back to the Stage with ‘A Christmas Carol’

As the air grows bitterly colder and the temperatures fall, inside Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) there is a warmth of hope rekindled as audiences are welcomed back for their long-running and beloved production of A Christmas Carol. With original adaptation and staging by Charles Nolte, this Charles Dickens’ Christmas classic runs at MBT on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, MI now through December 23.

Illustration by Chet Johnson

For 39 years, A Christmas Carol has greeted southeast Michigan audiences like an old friend. The pandemic last year briefly paused the holiday magic, but you could feel the anticipation and excitement from the full house at Friday night’s performance. We were back together. A community that loves theatre and the shared experience it provides, no matter where we come from. After the isolation of 2020, it was nice to feel a sense of normalcy and that the holidays have officially begun.

A Christmas Carol is a familiar story to many. It was published over 175 years ago and has been dramatized through many film and stage adaptations since then. And yet, we are drawn to this narrative year after year. Why? Because its core message of the importance of love, kindness, and generosity still resonates with us. Also, because there are still many lessons it has left to teach us. Director Terry W. Carpenter discusses in his program notes the idea of isolation. Last year certainly made us feel alone and disconnected. It was an isolation of circumstance, unlike the isolation Scrooge faces, which is of his own design. But now, having experienced extreme isolation, we have a better understanding of how easy it is to slip into existence as Scrooge does. Erroneously thinking that there will be plenty of time to live and love. It takes his former partner Jacob Marley (Jeff Thomakos) and three ghosts: Christmas Past (Olivia Ursu), Christmas Present (Anthony Guest), and Christmas Future (Scott Anthony Joy) to literally get in Scrooge’s face and get his attention. Like Scrooge, we should be appreciative of the second chances we are given. And thanks to the stellar and believable performances from the outstanding cast, we do.

Thomas D. Mahard and the cast of “A Christmas Carol” at MBT
Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

Thomas D. Mahard has captivated audiences as Ebenezer Scrooge for over 30 years. And it would be easy to slip into character as if one was donning a favorite sweater and performing on autopilot, but he doesn’t. Instead, Mahard brings Scrooge to life with an authentic and intense performance that is equally entertaining, and he expertly guides us along his character’s journey of self-transformation. On the surface, Bob Cratchit (Stephen Blackwell) seems to be a man who doesn’t have much reason to be happy – his boss is cruel, his home humble, and his youngest child, Tiny Tim (Chris Bertini) faces daily health struggles. And yet, Cratchit continues to look for the good – the silver lining of life – in every situation. Blackwell plays the part with an exuberance that is infectious to watch. Fred (Grant Cleaveland) is another character whose boundless optimism is the perfect foil to his uncle’s sour disposition. This is a cast packed with familiar faces and it was evident they were ecstatic to be back performing.

MBT’s production of A Christmas Carol is a gift that reminds us of Christmases past while giving us an opportunity to revel in the spirit of finally coming back together for Christmas present. And hopefully, this timeless tale will continue to bless us, everyone for many Christmases in the future.

This performance runs for approximately two hours with a 15-minute intermission. Please note that smoke, flash, and loud noises are used.

Tickets range from $35 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 discounts.

This production of A Christmas Carol is made possible through the generous support of The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, The National Endowment for the Arts, The Kresge Foundation, The Fred A. and Barbara M. Erb Family Foundation, The Shubert Foundation, and the Meadow Brook Theatre Guild.

A special note: As Covid-19 is a constantly changing situation, MBT will be monitoring and adhering to the guidance given by the CDC, the State of Michigan, the Actor’s Equity Association, and Oakland University. Check the Meadow Brook Theatre website at for the latest information on efforts to keep everyone safe.

Meadow Brook Theatre is located on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. Meadow Brook Theatre is a nonprofit, cultural institution proudly serving southeast Michigan for more than 50 years. For additional information, visit

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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