NewArts ‘A Christmas Carol’ Getting Ready To Thrill, Inspire At ETH Theatre
With a key casting change in place and another 50 actors, singers, and dancers poised to thrill Edmond Town Hall Theatre audiences this month, the 2021 NewArts production of the holiday classic A Christmas Carol is coming together nicely, according to Director Michael Unger.
The production’s boss called in to The Newtown Bee on November 21 as he was readying to head to Newtown for the final stretch of rehearsals. Unger said this year’s production — which he started staging at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., in 1996 and more recently at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel — will feature a mix of newcomers and familiar faces including one who is taking on a huge new role.
While it was unfortunate the plan to once again tap Equity actor Graeme Malcolm to return as Ebenezer Scrooge was unsuccessful, Timothy Huber — a local actor who previously portrayed Bob Cratchit in the most recent NewArts production at Walnut Hill — was game to step out of his familiar role and step up to portray Scrooge this year.
A Christmas Carol is scheduled to open at Edmond Town Hall, 45 Main Street, with 2 pm matinees and 7 pm evening performances on Saturday and Sunday, December 11-12. The production will then continue Friday, December 17, at 7 pm; Saturday, December 18, at 2 and 7 pm; and Sunday, December 19, at 2 pm.
Seating is general admission, and tickets are $20 for the balcony, $28 for orchestra/floor seating, and available through newartstickets, through the link from newarts.org, or even through the group’s Facebook page. Supporters and patrons are also encouraged to check out the NewArts Swag Shoppe as well, and to purchase and wear their NewArts apparel to the show.
Unger said with all the troubling news affecting the nation right now, this year’s production of A Christmas Carol will provide an uplifting couple hours of joyous celebration.
“Our cast ranges in age from about 6 to 70-something,” he said. “During the lead-up to this final run of rehearsals while I was getting ready to open Little Shop of Horrors in Milwaukee, the show was set up by Associate Director Brett Bowles. Then, when I arrive this week, we’ll take a look at where the show is and work with Brett to get it to the finish line.”
'Where We Belong'
As Unger explained in an earlier interview with The Newtown Bee, the constricted stage and wing space at Edmond Town Hall will prevent the towering Victorian sets from previous productions to be used, putting much more focus on the costumes, props, effects, and acting that are a hallmark of all his NewArts shows.
“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 in September. In regard to the more cozy confines of the stage at 45 Main Street, Unger added, “We can certainly work around that with the actors, but the sets are simply too big.”
In addition to Huber as Scrooge, Unger is thrilled to welcome back not only a few longtime professional friends, but several former NewArts participants as well.
He previously noted that choreographer Jennifer Paulson Lee will be involved with the production, along with associate Karen Loucks, who is helping when Paulson Lee is not here.
“But the really exciting thing is that Lindsey Fuori, who started with us in Seussical The Musical as a high school student, 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.
“Another young man, Jonathan Martin, who was in Christmas Carol at 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. “And we have Sean Sonntag, who also started with us on Seussical, and who is now a professional sound designer.
“Andrew is from New Haven, so Connecticut talents are well represented, but it’s amazing that we have three of our key designers who came up through the ranks at NewArts,” Unger said.
As so many new production professionals are becoming involved, Unger said he is viewing this year’s production of A Christmas Carol as “a passing of the torch in some respects.”
'A Rich Experience'
“It’s very exciting because it’s such a rich experience — not just because of the huge range in ages involved from right here in the Newtown community, but we’re in such a divided time right now, it’s really nice to be reminded of all the good we can do for each other. And it’s good to be reminded that people who don’t have an inclination towards that can learn to be more giving.”
Unger explained that the David Thompson adaptation of the universally known tale of Ebenezer Scrooge helps audiences understand some of the backstory and where his sour, penny-pinching attitude is rooted.
“He’s not just a random, mean villain who is awful because he’s awful — it’s because of his childhood and how society placed him in a situation where he developed so much fear of poverty, even once he became rich,” Unger said. “And we’re treated to such a beautiful transformation. But if you feel for that character, even though he’s an anti-hero for awhile, you come to know there is that potential for everyone.”
Another interesting dynamic now that Unger is casting adults in adult roles, is some parents of former NewArts youth actors are showing off their acting experience and talents as well.
NewArts is the theatrical division of The 12.14 Foundation, and normally collaborates with teams of nearly 20 theater professionals, including Broadway-level directors, performers, choreographers, music directors, designers, producers, and technicians, to guide local children in artistic endeavors celebrating collaboration, creativity and community.
To date, NewArts has presented 12 large-scale musicals involving more than 600 local youth onstage, backstage, and in the orchestra. The organization’s production of A ROCKIN’ Midsummer Night’s Dream was featured in the award-winning documentary film Midsummer in Newtown, which was selected for the prestigious Spotlight Section of the Tribeca Film Festival.
A virtual musical production of Diary Of A Wimpy Kid was completed over the summer of 2021, and is in the process of being edited for eventual distribution.
Editor John Voket can be reached at email@example.com.