Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is a holiday classic, performed over the years by everybody from Lionel Barrymore to Mr. Magoo.
For the first time in four years, Carson Performing Arts will present the play version of the novel Friday, Saturday and Dec. 12-14 at the Donald Reynolds Theatre in the Brewery Arts Center.
This production sounds like it was jinxed. Director Karen Chandler, a veteran of 14 or so Christmas shows with Carson Performing Arts, can recite a litany of woes that would derail most Broadway shows.
"My best friend's husband died 10 days before rehearsals started, I'm moving into a remodeled historic house that still is being remodeled - the Rio Tinto House - and my daughter just gave birth to her first baby two months premature."
Other than that, how was your week, Miss Chandler?
"I warned the kids before we started that there were going to be some crises, but they just rose to the occasion. Even with three our four cast members out every week with the flu, they've come through. We're right on track."
Cast members seem to agree. Ebenezer Scrooge (Jon Josten, with Mark Hernandez alternating), says, "Scrooge is an interesting character, hard as nails and an old skinflint. But I think there's a little of him in all of us."
For some there were special benefits from taking part in the production. Chistina Ross, who alternates with Gary Groth as the Ghost of Christmases Present, says the role has required her to master a speech impediment.
"I have to get it down right, no fumbling," she says.
Briana Balch, who portrays Peter, says it's a challenge all right - "the first time I've had to play a boy."
Chandler says, "It's taking a group of kids and watching them grow in their skills and roles, much like the tick mark we make when we measure physical growth. This group is as close to growing into acting as any I've coached."
Which production of "Christmas Carol" is her favorite?
"One I saw in Seattle a few years back. It was a kind of show within a show, and it was delightful. But then my true favorite is the one done with Mister Magoo, the cartoon character."
Says producer Pat Josten, "Working with the high school students is always a joy. This show is especially fun since my son, Nick, played Scrooge four years ago for the high school and now my son, Jon, is playing Scrooge.
"Watching the students develop their acting and stage skills through the process is most rewarding."
For those few who don't know the story of "A Christmas Carol," it's about Ebenzer Scrooge and five past events he dreams of, visits he makes to present Christmas, and a vision of his own death and that of his clerk, Bob Cratchitt's, son Tiny Tim. Scrooge makes a transformation, buys a Christmas goose for the Cratchitt family and becomes a caring man.
It might be hard to find Mr. Magoo's turn as Scrooge in video stores today, but there are many other versions floating around: The black-and-white one with Barrymore ("Lots of subtle lighting in that one," Chandler says, "one of my favorites"), the George C. Scott version, the one featuring British actor Alistar Sims and the Albert Finney musical version.
Marley: Derek Mares and Mark Hernandez
Scrooge: Jon Josten and Aaron Virgo
Bob Cratchit:, Tyler Jackson and Robert Reardon
Fred: Jacob Williams and Ben Auer
1st Do-Gooder (Thin): Dan Jolly and Robert Stewart
2nd Do-Gooder: Ashleigh Brantingham and Angie Witte
Christmas Past: Peter Angel and Lindsay Gauderault
Little Boy, Young Scrooge: Robert Reardon and Tyler Jackson
Fan, Lara Rhynes and Brianna Bollman
School mistress: Ashley Johnson and Tricia Badger
Fezziwig: Jeff Hoadley and Dennis Stoffer
Dick: Robert Stewart and Dan Jolly
Scrooge's Lost Love (Belle): Christine Dahlinger and Jessica Perry
Scrooge's Lost Love's Daughter: Jessica Perry and Christine Dahlinger
Scrooge's Lost Love's Husband: Ben Auer and Jacob Williams
Christmas Present: Gary Groth and Christina Ross
Mrs. Cratchit: Susan Rogan and Amanda Barnes
Belinda: Leah Cunningham
Martha: Melody Blomquist and Kaley Stout
Peter: Briana Balch
Tiny Tim: Megan LaPorte
Scrooge's niece: Christine Canasa and Hannah Lang
Christmas Future:, Robert Stewart
Businessmen: Ben Auer, Dan Jolly, Jeff Hoadley and Jacob Williams, Dan Jolly, Dennis Stoffer
Charwoman: Tricia Badger and Ashley Johnson
Mrs. Dilber: Theresa Epling and Jessica Chandler
Joe: Dennis Stoffer and Jeff Hoadley
Adam: Briana Balch
Christmas carolers, street people: Angie Witte, Lindsey Gauderault, Brianna Bollman, Christina Ross, Kaly Stout, Hannah Lang, Jessica Chandler, Dan Jolly and Ashleigh Brantingham, Peter Angel, Gary Groth, Lara Rhynes, Melody Blomquist, Christine Canasa, Theresa Epling, Dan Jolly
Stage manager: Janae Wilkins
Light operator: Alan Wilson
Sound operator: Matt Hogan
Light design: Gary Guberman
Technical director: Jon Josten