If you only see one holiday performance this year, let it be A Christmas Carol at Portland Playhouse.
I personally grew up on Mickey’s version, but the classic novella by Charles Dickens has been danced, performed by muppets, and reimagined by Hollywood greats ad infinitum. There’s a reason we can’t stop telling this story of redemption at Christmastime: it’s spooky, it’s moving, it’s the full gamut of Christmas emotions packed into a couple of hours. It can be hard to live up to all the hype, but this performance at Portland Playhouse, by Rick Lombardo and Anna Lackaff and directed brilliantly by Charles Grant, exceeds expectations in every way. The use of props and light is innovative, the music is incredible, and the acting moved me to tears more than once (skip the mascara, trust me).
It is too hard to choose a favorite performer in this show. Do I talk about Lauren Steele’s incredible voice? What about Elleon Dobias’s musical improvisation? Or do I emphasize how I believed Lester Purry’s Scrooge every minute, both pre- and post-redemption? At the very least, I should definitely warn that one sweet smile from Inara Elorreaga’s Tiny Tim will absolutely destroy you. I dare you not to cry when she sings. There is not one weak actor or musician in this talented cast. They sing beautifully, they play instruments skillfully, and they move props so gracefully that they are practically dancing.
This was my first visit to Portland Playhouse, a nonprofit theatre in the heart of Portland’s historic King neighborhood. The former church is intimate and lovely, and the performance space is small enough that there’s truly not a bad seat in the house. The bathroom deserves a mention alone: it is beautifully decorated, with gorgeous tile and live plants. Beer is free, and concessions are allowed in the theatre. I saw quite a few kids happily eating popcorn during the show. Free parking is available in the King School lot, two blocks north of Portland Playhouse, but we found street parking easily.
A Christmas Carol is general admission only, so arrive early to get seats together, especially if your party is greater than two. Before the show begins, actors roam the stage playing Christmas carols on request, letting children pluck a stringed instrument, and setting the holiday vibe. You won’t regret arriving early.
Are my kids old enough to enjoy this performance?
There were quite a few children at the Sunday matinee I attended, and they all seemed engaged the entire show. The pace of the performance is quick, and every scene offers a new visual feast. The songs are lively, some are sung by children, and there’s even falling snow. I attended with my husband, and we both agreed that our eleven-year-old would love this show, so I bought tickets the next day to take her myself. There are loud noises and strobe effects, but the scary moments are brief. Young children won’t catch every word, but they should be able to see the progression from cruelty to kindness clearly.
That said, ticket prices are the same for adults and children at Portland Playhouse, so if a young child is the primary audience, you might consider a children’s performance instead. If, however, you’d like to see A Christmas Carol yourself, the price of a ticket is approximately the cost of a sitter, so you can decide if you’d rather make it a family affair or date night. I would definitely have brought my children when they were younger, in the same spirit as our trips to The Nutcracker ballet over the years.
Accessibility and Ticket Specials
Subtitles are available during the performance, and, as a person who never watches television without subtitles, I loved it. Make sure to sit on the far side of the theater if you want or need to see them, opposite the entrance.
General admission is $59.95-$69.95 per ticket, depending on the date. BIPOC Pay What You Wish Performances start at $5, but they sell out quickly so don’t wait. Access tickets for $25 are available to all who need them, no proof of hardship required, and Arts for All tickets are $5 each with your Oregon Trail Card, maximum purchase of two. Last minute rush tickets for every performance are only $20, but this show will likely sell out so I wouldn’t count on their availability.
Seeing a live show is an investment in our local arts scene, yes, but also in your family’s shared memories. If you have the budget to splurge this season, I highly recommend spending your entertainment dollars at Portland Playhouse. Tickets make great holiday gifts, and this show runs through December 30, the perfect way to end the season.