It was 175 years ago that Charles Dickens first "scared the Dickens" out of the world with his stunning story, "A Christmas Carol." The story of ol' Scrooge and his astounding redemption was recently captured by the Canton Players Guild as Don Jones (who has appeared in "White Boy Rick," "Acts Of Violence" with Bruce Willis, and Netflix's "Little Evil,") arrived on stage once again to bring the tale alive.

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This was the ninth year that Mr. Jones has taken on the role, and this only worked to allow for his mastery to shine. Adding to the skill of the cast, however, was the fact that many of those who had the leading roles are also those with returning roles. Averi Allison returned for her third year as Bessie Fezziwig/Ciara, Matthew Heppe came back for his sixth year as a young Ebenezer/Fed, Allen Cruz has been Bob Cratchet twice before, and the list goes on and on. This added authenticity and a realness that most major performances of any play can only dream of.

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The Canton Symphony Orchestra begins

As soon as the playhouse lobby was entered, the cast was decked in caroler attire and in full song, a pleasant treat that put even the coldest of winter hearts into the warm spirit of the evening. From there, the house lights dimmed and merry voices which had brought to life multiple harmonies with renditions "Carol Of The Bells," "Silent Night" (which, itself, turned 200 years old this year), and others were soon ominously chanting, "dum, dum, dum..." as they trudged towards the stage, ready for the ghosts to arrive.

This wonderful marriage of beauty and terror were to remain intact all during the night.

Soon, the Canton Symphony Orchestra were hitting the opening notes and the magic began. Highlights of the first act were not only the stellar acting which was on display, but also the divine marriage of sound and light that the Canton Player's Guild has become so well-known for, all over the world. For example, when colored mist burst forth from Scrooge's chimney, the terror was almost tangible.

The same held true for the moments when the Ghost Of Christmas Present (Micah Harvey) emerged from his mantle's painting and even when the Ghost Of Christmas Past (Sarah Marie Young) takes the elderly old man flying over the heads of the crowd. These kinds of displays working in tandem with acting and musical prowess which was second to none captured the attention of everyone in attendance.

Keeping the feel of the novel

In the original work by Charles Dickens, Jacob Marley had his mouth tied shut.

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A bit of study reveals that there were likely two reasons for this. The first theory is that he died of a tooth infection and the second is that mouth cancer killed him. Considering the popularity of chewing tobacco at that time, both outcomes were common. At one point in the book, when Scrooge fails to see that mankind is "his business," Marley removes the wrapping and his mouth falls to his chest as he wails!

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Sadly, the wrapping was missing from this year's Marley, but the performance of Jacob Susteric lacked in nothing else. His delivery was chilling and his outrage at the mockings of Scroowasere nothing short of horrifying.

One very nice addition to the play was the fact that real (and cold) snow fell on the crowd at one point and the way in which the Ghost Of Christmas Future (Paolo Parodi) blew forth from the bowels of the stage, clouded in dyed haze and with ominous stance was also quite captivating. Furthermore, the fact that both Scrooge's door knocker and his headstone glowed in a hellish light was not to be overlooked.

Also quite chilling was the way that the poor children in this version slithered towards Scrooge after the boy (Ignorance) and girl (Want) were brought out from the Ghost Of Christmas Present's robe. They looked like something from "Silent Hill," not like children crawling, and this bit of direction made all of the difference in the world. It was truly ghastly.

Without a doubt, one of the things that made the Player's Guild performance so very rich is the fact it is the musical written by Steve Parson that they perform and really adds a new dimension to this timeless tale of terror and redemption. The music is not for the inexperienced, but rather, is very complex and in a number of different keys. The range of each performer has to be quite dynamic and far-reaching to even be considered for a role. This was a task that Belle (Marita Tornabene), Mrs. Fezziwig (Tehilah Caviness), and the whole cast handled wonderfully.

Those who left the theater did so only to find that the cast was waiting to greet them all, wish them a Merry Christmas, and to pose for photos. It was the perfect end to a perfect night and, God-willing, a night that touched everyone deeply.

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