Tiny Tim (Indigo Winston Paine) and Scrooge (Bob Struckman) help make “A Christmas Carol” a blessing for everyone. (Photo: ML Repertory Theatre)
New beginnings. It’s one of the themes at the core of “A Christmas Carol,” Charles Dickens’ classic tale of one man’s path to rekindling his humanity, and a fitting selection for Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre’s first show in its new home, the Edison Theatre in the Mammoth Ski Museum.
First published on Dec. 19, 1843, just in time for Christmas, Dickens’ book was an instant hit. The first printing sold out by that Christmas, and the seventh printing had been devoured by readers by the following May. The book and its messages of redemption and a return to what is truly joyful about the holiday season came at a time when England had begun to get back in touch with more simple Christmas traditions.
Interestingly, customs such as the Christmas tree and greeting cards were being introduced, though they don’t figure as prominently in the story. Never out of print since its debut, the book has generated such cultural language standards as “Scrooge” and “bah, humbug,” not to mention numerous charities named after Tiny Tim. Upon having seen a performance of the show, one large business owner was said to have been so moved that he closed his factory on Christmas day and sent all of his employees a turkey.
So says Wikipedia anyway.
Several versions have been created for the stage, but MLRT Artistic Director Shira Dubrovner chose a recent one by writer Richard Hellesen. A musical, with songs by David DeBerry, she thinks the play flows better in part because of Hellesen’s unique use of narrative delivered by various characters to help propel the plot.
Dubrovner said she became hooked on this version because of DeBerry’s songs. “It’s caroling music and just gave me a warm and nostalgic feeling when I saw it,” Dubrovner told The Sheet. Indeed, the original songs are written to sound carolesque, and now and then incorporate parts of familiar traditionals, such as “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” The score is very creative, however, in DeBerry’s strategic shifts from gleeful major to ghostly minor keys, particularly where Scrooge is involved. Musical Director Stephanie Everson coached the cast in their vocals.
The cast list, which is by no means complete here, includes veterans such as Bob Sruckman, wonderful as Scrooge (with a bit of Snidely Whiplash thrown in for good measure), Shanda Duro as the Ghost of Christmas Past, Chuck Scatolini as Jacob Marley and Rick Phelps as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Tim Casey as Fred, along with Indigo Winston Paine making his stage debut as Tiny Tim. Newcomers Sheryl Saari and Robin Morning in their first production join Lori Ciccarelli as Mrs. Fezziwig, and even professional snowboarder Desiree Melancon, who auditioned just for fun, was nonetheless serious about doing the show and landed a key part as the ominous Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come.
A wealth of authentic-looking period costumes help create the ambiance, and the black-box setting with minimal props and set pieces lets the audience’s imagination time travel to mid-1800s London.
“I really wanted to do a piece that brings us all back to what is truly important in life: family, kindness, generosity,” Dubrovner added. “In the rehearsals I always find myself at the end of the play with a huge smile on my face. That is the Christmas gift I would like to give to the community.”
Sponsored by the Sierra Nevada Lodge and Mammoth Hospital, “A Christmas Carol” is presented by Mammoth Lakes Repertory Theatre in cooperation with the Mammoth Lakes Foundation, and plays Dec. 2-19 at the Mammoth Ski Museum’s new Edison Theatre, at 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and Sunday at 4 p.m. only. Tickets: $20 general admission, $18 students and seniors, and $15 children. Group discounts available. For reservations/information call 760.934.6592 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.