REVIEW: Meadow Brook Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ Celebrates Community and the Resiliency of the Human Spirit

As the Bible and The Byrds famously stated, ‘For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.’ For those of us in the metro Detroit area, this means once again it is that magical time of year for seeing A Christmas Carol, running now through December 24, 2022, at Meadow Brook Theatre (MBT) on the campus of Oakland University in Rochester, Mich.

L to R: Conrad Nichols (Tiny Tim), Tamara Della Anderson (Spirit of Christmas Present), Thomas D. Mahard (Ebenezer Scrooge), and Ben Ellison (Tiny Tim) light up the stage in MBT’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’
Photo courtesy of Sean Carter Photography

With original adaptation and staging by Charles Nolte, A Christmas Carol is a 40-year MBT tradition. So, what is it about this story and its characters that have kept audiences enthralled for decades? Director Terry W. Carpenter gives this insight, “Every time we visit this holiday classic, we make new discoveries for ourselves in this story of forgiveness and redemption.”

Theatre is a shared experience. When the lights dim and the charisma of the characters fill the space, we are united. We are equal. We remember that every one of us is valuable and life is to be cherished and celebrated.

If we’re being honest, these last couple of years has been brutal on every level. Usually, by the time we reach December, most of us feel like we are limping across the proverbial finish line. Because of this, it’s easy to slip into a cynical state of mind. We adopt a Scrooge-like spirit that settles into our bones leading to disconnection and depression. A Christmas Carol is a powerful reminder that there is still goodness and love around us – even when we’ve done everything to push it away. And second chances, if we’re brave enough to seize the opportunity.

Holiday revelers have a laugh at Scrooge’s expense. L to R sitting: Katy Kujala, Mary Magyari, Thomas D. Mahard, and Kai Stidham. L to R standing: Jessica Nichols, Grant Cleaveland Antonio Vettraino, David Schoen, and Anthony Guest.

For the past 36 years, Thomas D. Mahard has embodied the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge. And while his character portrayal is expertly honed, Mahard is never lackadaisical in his execution. The play’s purpose is to show Scrooge’s growth. How a once exuberant young man filled with dreams became a bitter old man riddled with regret. If Mahard isn’t convincing; if he doesn’t truly make us believe in Scrooge’s self-transformation, then the play loses its potency. Thankfully, you can tell he relishes the role and the responsibility he’s been given.

The Spirit of Christmas Past (Mary Magyari) beckons Ebenezer Scrooge (Thomas D. Mahard) to join her on a transformative journey. Photo courtesy of MBT Facebook.

Not only is A Christmas Carol a tradition for the audience, but for the cast as well. Some like Stephen Blackwell (Bob Cratchit), Grant Cleaveland (Fred), and Chip DuFord (Mr. Fezziwig) reprised roles from production’s past. Others, like Anthony Guest, brought their talents to a different part. Guest traded in the Spirit of Christmas Present to deliver a powerful performance as the tortured Ghost of Jacob Marley, while Katy Kujala took up the mantle of Belle, Scrooge’s lost love. Other returning cast members who equally delight are Stephanie Nichols (Mrs. Fezziwig), Phil Powers (Old Joe), Kristina Riegle (Mrs. Cratchit), David Schoen (Londoner/Merchant), and Kai Stidham (Londoner/Laundress). This production is also a rite of theatrical passage for newcomers like Jessica Nichols (Fred’s wife) and Antonio Vettraino (Dick Wilkins). Both are recent musical theatre graduates from Rochester University and Oakland University, respectively.

The Spirit of Christmas Present (Tamara Della Anderson) educates Scrooge regarding ‘Ignorance’ (Conrad Nichols) and ‘Want’ (Mayaar Arraf-Shapiro)
Photo courtesy of MBT Facebook

Guiding Scrooge on his journey are Mary Magyari as the ethereal Spirit of Christmas Past, Tamara Della Anderson who I absolutely loved as the Spirit of Christmas Present, and Tyler Bolda as the harbinger of death, the Spirit of Christmas Future. This year, I particularly enjoyed the diversity of actors represented on stage. And it’s always a treat to see the young thespians tread the boards. At my performance, Conrad Nichols played the role of Tiny Tim, a role that is also played by Ben Ellison. No matter who gets added to the cast or what role they play, the quality of the production never diminishes, which is another reason audiences keep being drawn back to see this production.

So, as your personal finish line comes into view, do yourself a favor. Slow down and take an afternoon or evening to see A Christmas Carol. Let go of the past. Be mindful of the present and have hope for the future. Because it doesn’t matter how well you know the story, what matters is what you learn from it and who you share it with. And this is definitely a tradition everyone should experience. Make sure you arrive early to enjoy the carolers in period dress who entertain and interact with the audience. You may even be asked to join in!

The original choreography is by Jan Puffer. Brittanie Nichole Sicker and Stacy White are both stage managers throughout the run. Scenic design is by Peter W. Hicks, lighting design by Reid G. Johnson, assistant lighting design by Phillip Hall, costume design by Mary Pettinato, 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 by 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

Speak Your Mind