Scrooge, Stu Smith; Marley/Fezziwig, Darren Johnson; Narrator, Bev Smith; Bob Cratchit, Lyle Becker; Mrs. Cratchit, Kathy Hardtke; Cratchit Children, Megan Schauer, Matt Doherty and Laura Schmitt; Tiny Tim, Sam Doherty; Nephew Fred, Sean Connelly; Solicitors, Maria Sausen and Nancy Jones; Christmas Past, Sandy Zochert; Christmas Present, Dave Zochert; Ignorance, Matt Doherty; Want, Megan Schauer; Christmas Future, Darren Johnson; Young Scrooge, Jarod Verboort; Fan, Keri Salscheider; Belle, Randi Fay; Old Joe, Joe Stege; Charwoman #1, Gretchen Mattingly; Char Woman #2, Debbie DeGroot; Undertaker, Bill Jones; Boy/Goose, Matt Doherty. Carolers, Myrna Dickinson, Laura Schmitt, Megan Schauer, Matt Doherty, Sam Doherty, Joe Stege, Gretchen Mattingly, Debbie DeGroot, Bill Jones, Nancy Jones, Randi Fay, Keri Salscheider, Maria Sausen, Jerod Verboort, Darren Johnson, Sandy Zochert, Sean Connelly, Lyle Becker and Kathy Hardtke.
Producers, Darren Johnson and Stu Smith; director, Dave Zochert; music arranger, Mary Eisenreich; technical director, Dan Collins; costumer, Judy Patefield; hair and make-up designer, Lois Gregare; musicians, Mary Eisenreich, keyboard; Barb Hinnendael, keyboard; Bob Balsley, guitar; Jeff Hinnendael, percussion.
“It’s Christmas,” “In the Bleak Midwinter,” “Fum, Fum, Fum,” “I Saw Three Ships A Sailing,” “Coventry Carol,” “Billy Boy,” “Wassail, Wassail,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” “Barbara Allen,” “Oh Come, Little Children,” “Deck the Halls,” “Christmas is Coming,” “Joy to the World,” “What Child is This?” “God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen.”
On paper, the concept is a hit. The three performances are sold out.
In performance, it is loaded with atmosphere, with plenty of satisfying singing splashed through the heartening story of redemption.
The production is a “Reader’s Digest” condensation that times in at less than an hour and a half. Some hard-core versions plummet Scrooge into deep, dark chasms that are haunting yet make his redemption all the more uplifting. The mood in this one is more up than down, fueling a spirit of community cheer.
Factoring in this version are two new elements to the Smith template, Darren Johnson’s troupe and the
The Johnson factor means there’s a lot of good singing. Group carols and individual performances are filled with rich sounds, dressed nicely by the four-person orchestra. Warmth radiates in the Johnson-led “It’s Christmas (it’s Christmas, and it’s calling me home).” Adding aura are little touches such as Lyle Becker as Bob Cratchit singing “I Saw Three Ships A Sailing” as he goes about his business in Scrooge’s shop and a showcase for Randi Fay as Belle, Scrooge’s abandoned love, in the oh-so-sad “Barbara Allen.”
This production makes use of wireless microphones, the headsets that allow performers to move freely and be heard clearly anywhere. Add inventiveness, cleverness and a great story with jolly good singing, and you’ve got something wonderful.
HISTORICAL NOTE: “A Christmas Carol” is the origin of Evergreen Productions. Longtime director Bev Saxe gathered together like-minded individuals (kind of like the cast in this production) to do “A Christmas Carol” as an independent production. This was for joy, basically. With time, the association became more formal, and Evergreen Productions was started. Evergreen eventually absorbed Next Door Theatre for Children and today has ongoing offerings that often feature blended youth/adult casts, just as with this version of “A Christmas Carol.”
FASCINATING COINCIDENCE: In “A Christmas Carol,” Bob Cratchit is late to work the day after Christmas by 18½ minutes. During the presidency of Richard Nixon, the infamous White House Tapes had a gap of 18½ minutes. We know why Bob Cratchit was late, but nobody has been able to pin down exactly what was going on in Nixon’s vanished 18½ minutes.
THE VENUE: The spacious Riverside Ballroom Crystal Ballroom is the heart of the 1936 Art Moderne building on
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