HGCBT's ‘A Christmas Carol’ Moves to Rockville

For the last several years, Hope Garden Children’s Ballet Theater has delighted Poolesville audiences with its production of “A Christmas Carol,” a creative retelling of the classic Charles Dickens tale.  This year, Hope Garden took its show to a new locale, the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theater, a 446-seat facility in Rockville. The ballet enjoyed near sell-out crowds in both its matinee and evening shows.

During the performances, the audience was instantly transported to 19th-century London with a large backdrop showing the city in winter. The ballet portrayed how a miserly Ebenezer Scrooge comes to again believe in Christmas after being visited by three spirits. Some 70 performers, many of them students of the Hope Garden Ballet Academy, took part in this original ballet by artistic director and choreographer Fran Ichijo, set to the stirring music of Claude Debussy.

The show opens with Scrooge, played by Josh Snyder, delighting in his personal wealth while refusing Bob Cratchit even a bit of coal to stoke the fire.  A group of dancers dressed in gold enter on stage in a giant money bag and swirl around Scrooge as he kicks up his heels. Scrooge’s wealth is then contrasted by a street scene busy with gypsies and orphans begging for food, as well as a trio of tavern ladies.  The dancers in these scenes astonish the audience with their skills that intersect both gymnastics and ballet, including cartwheels, back flips, and human pyramids.

We then see Scrooge visited by the ghost of Jacob Marley (Dustin Kimball) and wandering spirits. This contemporary piece, with dancers dressed in blue and purple flowing costumes, along with Marley and his chains, delivers an other-wordly feel to the stage.  During the show, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who steer him through his past, present, and future. Each of these spirits are brilliantly played by Brooke O’Connell (past), Hannah Wills (present), and Suzanne Creedon (future).

As Scrooge visits his past, the audience is treated to the festive and fun Fezziwig party scene, with energetic performances from both the adults and young children.  Fezziwig and his guests dance together around the stage, and then delight in the displays of the gingerbread cookies and peppermints, the littlest of the dancers.  During the party, the young Scrooge proposes to Isabel, Fezziwig’s daughter (Kimora Maier), and the two enjoy a moving, romantic dance. Then some comic relief is delivered, as two boys (John Foster and Darby Johnson) battle for the affection of a pretty girl (Charlotte Vogel). But then we see the beginning of Scrooge’s downfall, as his attention is turned from his fiancée to his desire for money, represented by his dance with the Golden Idol (Renee Terragno).

When Scrooge is then brought into the present, he sees the warmth and love of the Cratchit household, where they enjoy a simple but joyful dinner. Act II also brings the focus back on classical ballet, with the dancers portraying the love and joy of Christmas. The colors of Christmas -- Holly (Danielle Creedon) and berries, red and pink poinsettias, White (Olivia Romano) and Silver (Lizzie Phelps)  – are all represented as Scrooge watches on, contemplating the meaning of Christmas. The audience was enraptured by the ballet dancers’ displays of beauty and mastery.

Finally, Scrooge must face his possible dreadful future, as a haunting figure, portrayed in all black, ominously reveals a somber Cratchit kneeling at the grave of Tiny Tim and Scrooge’s own gravestone with his name in flashing lights. But on Christmas morning Scrooge wakes a changed man, ready to share his wealth and joy with the townspeople, especially Tiny Tim.

The pageantry of performances on display at “A Christmas Carol” creates a fantastic holiday experience that appeals to a wide audience, from Poolesville to Rockville. And every year brings something new for audiences as well, as Fran Ichijo continues to deliver her deep and meaningful interpretations of the story through dance.