The lights are back on at the Ahmanson Theater.
The Center Theater Group venue lifted the curtain Wednesday for the opening night of A Christmas Carol, the first production to take to the stage in nearly two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and what a festive evening it was. The gigantic Christmas tree on the patio was decorated with white lights and featured a burst of blue on top, theater attendants lined up to check vaccine cards in plush holiday hats and reindeer ears, and the hot chocolate was being reheated for an after-show welcome.
As guests made their way inside for 8 p.m., they were greeted by white envelopes on each seat. The card inside read, âWe missed you. Tonight’s performance is dedicated to you: The first to return. The Ahmanson has been in darkness for 628 days. We imagine you missed it as much as we did. As we gather tonight, surrounded by other theatergoers, let the magic of this moment remind us that there is nothing like live theater. “
Thomas Caruso is not one who needed a refresher. He directs the production and tells Hollywood journalist on the red carpet before the show how grateful he was to be back in his most cherished place. âI’m so excited,â he said. âIt’s been 18 long months. To be back at CTG after this long time, with this beautiful show, which is about hope, rebirth and restarting, it couldn’t be more on the theme of what we’re all going through right now.
The Reimagining of the Charles Dickens classic – originally directed and designed by Tony Burton winner Matthew Warchus and adapted by Tony winner Jack Thorne – stars Bradley Whitford in Ebenezer Scrooge and sets it up against Kate Burton, Alex Newell , Chante Carmel, Dashiell Eaves, Brandon Gill, Evan Harrington, Chris Hoch, Sarah Hunt, Alex Nee, Sebastian Ortiz, Cade Robertson, Brett Ryback, Harry Thornton, Glory Yepassis-Zembrou and Grace Yoo.
âBradley is the perfect Scrooge,â Caruso continued. âHe’s such a generous actor and human being and a great collaborator. I had known him from the theatrical work but also from so much of his diverse TV work over the years and seeing him play someone with such obscurity. and then at the end of it letting go and embracing the joy and the humor and the life, I know few actors who can have that kind of arc and handle the whole spectrum of emotions. He does it effortlessly.
His wife, Amy Landecker agrees. She said THR on the carpet that she becomes emotional at the thought of how happy he is to play Scrooge. âThe joy that runs through her body every day because of that part – it makes me cry to think about it,â she explained. âIt’s so exciting to see him in a live performance and the rest of the cast are crazy. It’s an amazing adaptation, very modern. It’s not your mother’s Christmas Carothe. Plus, Bradley is just the sexiest Scrooge.
Landecker also pointed out that the play’s well-known themes align perfectly with Whitford’s personal beliefs about equality, kindness, service and redemption: âThis role is everything my husband believes in the world. in game form. âHe had other fans in the audience. Dule Hill, Blair Underwood, Matthew Morrison, Ever Carradine, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Charles Shaughnessy, Kate Linder, Peter Paige and Joe Pacheco attended Wednesday’s opening.
Pacheco said THR it was special to be back at the Ahmanson after the extended shutdown, but it was also bittersweet in that it marked the last hurray for Michael Ritchie, who announced he would be stepping down as artistic director on December 31 after 17 years in office. Ritchie was celebrated at a pre-show dinner in a tent structure on the patio.
âI met Michael when I was 14,â Pacheco recalls. âWe worked at the summer theater, Surflight, and he was the technical director. I also worked with him in Williamstown. He’s one of my oldest and closest friends in the world and he’s also one of the best guys in the world. He will be missed, that’s for sure.
Emotions continued to flow through the show as the opening night performance was greeted with a standing ovation. While some of the audience were still standing, Whitford bowed to the center of the stage and exclaimed, “We’re back!” He then informed the audience of the Center Theater Group’s charitable partnership to broadcast the show, South LA CafÃ©. The association, led by Joe Ward-Wallace and Celia Ward-Wallace, seeks to address racial, social, economic and food inequalities through coffee, community and relationships.
Whitford went on to admit that the company had “struggled” over how to cope with the massive loss of Stephen Sondheim as the Big Theater passed away on November 26 at the age of 91. Whitford, a stage veteran who had the honor of playing Sondheim in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first film tick … tick … BOOM! just out. âIt’s weird to open a show without acknowledging the loss of Stephen Sondheim,â Whitford noted. “This may be the least Stephen Sondheim show you’ve ever seen, but I can tell you this, that spirit opened the doors not only to American musical theater, but to all of theater.”
In order to honor Sondheim’s legacy, Whitford went on to lead his cast in a touching, if not unique, tribute. âWe are about to honor the greatest Jewish songwriter and lyricist in American theater with a wordless English bell song. It’s for StÃ©phane.
A Christmas carol is now playing until January 1.