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NewArts Sets Community Auditions For ‘A Christmas Carol’ 2021



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The hot humid days of summer are still upon us, but Newtown’s NewArts leadership is already fully focused on preparing for this winter’s production of A Christmas Carol.

The popular holiday season production from this local creative arts and character development nonprofit will grace the boards of Edmond Town Hall Theatre for the very first time, with this year’s production scheduled to premiere on December 11.

NewArts Creative Director Michael Unger told The Newtown Bee in a recent chat that he is moving forward, calling on any interested community members to audition virtually October 1-3.

“Normally our summer shows feature children from the community, but this show will include cast members, young and older, from across the Newtown area,” he said. “We need to get adults in there for the adult roles and for the caroling chorus. We’ll feature the full spectrum of ages.”

Audition appointments can be scheduled at newarts.org. The site also offers a cast list, and a few script sections for audition purposes.

Rehearsals will commence November 8.

Despite pandemic-related challenges and logistical plans that occasionally have to pivot quickly in a “new-ish, normal-ish” environment, Unger believes NewArts and the nation are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel as far as COVID-19 is concerned.

“As one board member put it, let’s hope it’s not a train coming the other way,” Unger said, likely echoing the sentiment of anyone whose livelihood depends on putting a group of people together in a closed space to entertain an even larger number of people who have gathered together to watch, no matter what the activity involves.

“The delta variant is a huge concern, and we’re hoping everyone gets vaccinated, but we’re sort of at the mercy of how this virus goes,” Unger said, “although it doesn’t sound like the country is going back into shutdown. We are seeing more and more places requiring a vaccine for entry — it’s happening on Broadway and at a lot of other events. A lot of theater groups are getting together as consortiums to require proof of vaccination, and I’m hoping we apply that same logic to our shows.”

And of course, A Christmas Carol does involve children under age 12 who do not yet have authorized access to a COVID-19 vaccine, so Unger is watching developments in that department closely. He is prepared to field a hybrid cast that could include younger actors who must wear face coverings if necessary.

“But I’m assuming they’ll be lowering the vaccination age long before the time A Christmas Carol comes around, so if we can have a fully vaccinated cast, we certainly will. For anyone who can’t be vaccinated, we’re just going to have to wait and see what state and CDC guidelines tell us at that point,” he said.

What is getting Unger excited about the upcoming Christmas Carol production is its location.

“We’re staging it where we belong, at Edmond Town Hall. It’s where we should be — right there on Main Street in this beautiful venue,” he said. One significant change, however, will be significantly downscaling the sets and big production numbers for the somewhat more cozy confines of the stage at 45 Main Street.

“We can certainly work around that with the actors, but the sets are simply too big,” he said. “So the scenery will include the costumes, furniture, props, and lighting.”

Unger said he will still seek a core cast of around 35 actors, and is hoping to as much as double that number if he can work out the logistics of including a “caroling cast.”

“But we’re certainly not double casting the show this year as we did in the past,” he added.

Familiar Faces Returning

Unger was thrilled to announce that his Christmas Carol veteran Scrooge, Graeme Malcolm, is returning. Besides Unger, choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee will also be involved with the production.

“But the really exciting thing is that Lindsey Fuori, who started with us in high school and who designed Lion King [Junior] under professional supervision, has gotten a degree in scenic design and is now a designer in her own right. So this local kid who started with us is coming back this year,” Unger said.

“And a young man, Jonathan Martin, who was in Christmas Carol at the Walnut Hill Community Church, has taken a strong professional interest in lighting design, so he’ll be assisting our main lighting designer, Andrew Griffin, who was also with us for Matilda,” Unger added.

“Bring your friends and family to audition, and celebrate the Newtown community in the heart of the community,” he said. “There’s no show with more heart than A Christmas Carol.”

In other NewArts news, Unger said he and his virtual casts of the Diary Of A Wimpy Kid summer musical have wrapped up. But the big news is Newtown and regional cast members were joined by several young actors from Marjory Stone Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. Unger got to know that school’s theater director when she staged the NewArts production of A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream in 2019.

“Because we did Midsummer down there in 2019, I reached out to drama teacher, Melody Herzfeld, who won an honorary Tony Award for her work that year and suggested we mix it up a bit, since we were doing Wimpy Kid virtually,” Unger said. “So we ended up with two students from Parkland, as well as a teenager, Mabel Weismann, who was in the original cast of Wimpy Kid when it first premiered at the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis.

“At the time, she played a little boy, Manny, and now she’s playing one of the lead girls, Patty,” Unger said. “And we’re hoping to do an in-person concert of Wimpy Kid music in Newtown next spring, and those kids would come in for that show.”

Unger has finished organizing the camera shots for the virtual Wimpy Kid production, but editing has not yet begun.

NewArts is a nonprofit organization dedicated to fostering well-being in children by instilling grit and resilience through a character development program coupled with high-level mastery experiences. Learn more about its theater and character development programs, volunteer opportunities, and how to support the cause by visiting online.

Editor John Voket can be reached at john@thebee.com.

Broadway star Graeme Malcolm is returning to play Ebenezer Scrooge in the 2021 NewArts production of A Christmas Carol, according to the show’s creative director, Michael Unger —T. Charles Erickson photo
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