Citadel’s “A Christmas Carol” is Simple and Authentic

“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is an intimate story of conversion.

The heartless miser Ebenezer Scrooge becomes a compassionate, generous human being.

A lean but authentic adaptation by Peter DeLaurier of that beloved holiday classic is now on stage at Citadel Theatre in Lake Forest, and it is deeply satisfying.

Frank Farrell plays Scrooge, and as he observes what director Pat Murphy calls “the theater of his own life,” his reactions are authentic, especially the chilling moment when he sees his own corpse.

20 cast members take multiple roles but that never leads to confusion. Carey Lee Burton is the blonde Ghost of Christmas Past, chirpy and clad in white like Carol Kane in the 1988 comedy “Scrooged,” and she also ably plays nephew Fred’s dark-haired wife.

With 5 roles apiece, youngsters Emerson Hart and Katie Gilcrest may be the busiest of the group, paired as young Scrooge and his sister, Fan, and also as two of the Cratchit children.

Sumptuous costumes are both drab and richly colored, evoking the various hues of mid-19th century London.

We hear the tale’s familiar lines, but the drama plays out without gimmicks or expensive special effects. Under Murphy’s direction, the timeless story eventually fills every corner of Citadel’s compact stage with “charity, mercy, forbearance and benevolence,” to quote the flowery ghost of Jacob Marley.

You can’t ask for more than that.

“A Christmas Carol” runs through Dec. 30 at Citadel Theatre on the West Campus Theatre of Lake Forest High School, 300 S. Waukegan Road, Lake Forest. No performances Dec. 24 or 25. Free parking. For tickets call 847-735-8554 or A Christmas Carol

Bring an item of warm clothing or 3 cans of non-perishable food items for the Holy Family Food Pantry for $5 off general admission.