Two for the Holidays

Favorites Are Back

By: - Dec 15, 2023

Two holiday favorites are back on stage in Hartford and audiences should be delighted.

Not only is A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas back at Hartford Stage, but it is better than ever. It’s been missing due to the pandemic and its aftermath.

This “refreshed” production is directed by its adaptor and original director, former Artistic Director of the Stage, Michael Wilson.

If you’ve seen it before – I make it an annual holiday event – you won’t notice major changes, just subtle additions and subtractions. Yet it seems sprightlier.

Allen Gillmore is the new Scrooge, and he brings more subtle humor to the role. His Scrooge doesn’t downplay the “bad” Scrooge by winking at the audience. He gives you the man as Dickens wrote him. Yet, when he opens up during the visits of the ghosts, you see a different side of him. And when he wakes up and realizes it is Christmas Day, his elation seems real.

Several actors are returning to the cast. Noble Shropshire is terrific as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s housekeeper, and later as Marley. But it is as Mrs. Dilber that he shines. It is the subtle line readings that bring humor to the role. Also returning are Rebecka Jones as the doll lady and the Spirit of Christmas Past, and John-Andrew Morrison in a new role as the Spirit of Christmas Present and Bert, the cider man. Each imbues their characters with warmth and wisdom.  Ryan Garbayo makes a terrific Bob Cratchit, though he doesn’t look as beaten down as someone in his situation might.

Yes, the apparitions are present, sometimes appearing in the aisle; the costumes for each reveal how they died: a rope around the neck or a hatchet in the skull. These talented students from the University of Hartford’s The Hartt School make this indeed “a ghost story of Christmas.”  Two children alternate in the role of Tiny Tim, The production has two casts of children.

Perhaps my only disappointment was that the spirits didn’t fly. Only Marley is lifted into the air.

This is a great production for older children, perhaps seven and above; younger children may be frightened by the spirits and the special effects, including spectacular lighting design by Robert Wierzel and sound design by John Gromada.

It runs through Sunday, Dec. 24. For tickets, visit

Christmas on the Rocks, now at TheatreWorks Hartford through Saturday, Dec. 23, is geared toward adults. This show, conceived and directed by Rob Ruggiero, has us peek into the adult lives of some famous Christmas movie and TV show characters.  

During its 10-year history, the characters have changed; last year, two new scenes were added and another new one is in this year’s production.  

The premise is simple: these adult characters, all experiencing some type of midlife crisis, come into a neighborhood bar on Christmas Eve. They have a drink or two, tell their tale of woe to the bartender, and then leave.

Richard Kline is the bartender. Kline was on Three’s Company (as Jack’s friend), as well as numerous other TV shows and Broadway productions. His bartender gets out from behind the bar a little more than others have. He even throws in a few dance steps; he has played in multiple Broadway musicals. 

Jen Cody and Harry Bouvy have returned to play all the movie and TV characters. Each has exquisite comic timing.

Last year, a scene about the Little Drummer Boy and one on the Elf on the Shelf were added; at the time, each needed polishing. This year, the two scenes shine.  The Little Drummer Boy is a Jewish hippie who uses 70s slang and smokes weed. Bouvy gives him the perfect vibe.  Cody twists her body into multiple positions as the Elf on the Shelf, who is tired of being a snitch and being abused by those who place her each day.

The new scene, “A Smidge of Midge” needs work. It plays off the Barbie movie; Midge is supposedly Barbie’s best friend, but that seems to be more in Midge’s head than reality. Cody did a good job with it, but Midge doesn’t seem to be as important a character as the others in the production.

The other stories are about Ralphie from A Christmas Story, Hermie from the TV cartoon Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Clara from The Nutcracker, and Charlie Brown.

The outstanding set design by Micael Schweikardt hasn’t changed. Hidden within the slightly run-down neighborhood bar are props that reflect the characters who will enter.

Remember, this is for adults or mature teens. Some of the language and jokes might not be appropriate for younger children.

Make sure you get there early; scenes from the characters’ shows are shown on large screens on each side of the stage. Also, try the killed “Bad Elf” cocktail or the larger “Really Bad Elf.”

For tickets, visit

Both these shows are almost sold out.

This content is courtesy of Shore Publications and