This Year’s NewArts ‘Christmas Carol’ May Be The First Of Many On Main Street
NOTE (Monday, December 6, 2021): This feature has been updated to include mention of previous productions done at Newtown High School.
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The NewArts director of operations is very excited about this year’s production of A Christmas Carol.
The theatrical arm of The 12.14 Foundation is not only working with a cast primarily made up of local residents of all ages, and building an audience of the same, it is also preparing to perform in its hometown for the first time in a few years.
David Thompson’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens story of redemption, love, and compassion will have eight performances over two weekends this month at Edmond Town Hall Theatre. Ryan Loucks, the recently hired director of operations, thinks the historic building is the place for that show.
“It’s exciting to do such a classic show on Main Street Newtown,” Loucks said this week. Seated in The Mary Hawley Room within Edmond Town Hall Monday morning, Loucks took time to speak with The Newtown Bee about the production and his hopes for the company.
“Doing the show here specifically,” he said, “it’s too perfect. We gain a lot just in the ambiance.”
The building was constructed in 1929-30, and dedicated in 1930. It has long served as the heart and center of the community, providing space for entertainment, events, sports, and governmental and civic activities. Its board of managers remains committed to the care and maintenance of the iconic building.
At the center of the Georgian style building is its 500-seat theater. When they arrive for the NewArts performances December 11-12 and 17-19, audiences will walk through the familiar lobby with its grand ceiling, past the matching marquee boards on either side of the room, and through heavy doors that thousands if not millions of others have passed through for nearly 100 years en route to their seats.
Before the curtain even goes up, ticket holders will have walked through spaces decorated by the production’s hosts. Employees of Edmond Town Hall have decked the building with holiday sprays, wreaths, poinsettia plants, and even a full-size tree that stands just north of the building’s box office.
“All of these decorations,” Loucks said, motioning around him, “these are all theirs, and they just add to what we’re going to offer.”
Everything Under One Roof
Loucks hopes to fill that theater — or at least the 80% of the seating that will be used, with COVID-19 precautions still in place — for all eight of the planned performances of A Christmas Carol.
“I’m really proud of these kids, and very excited for their hard work to be seen by the community,” he said. Rehearsals began just after auditions, which were in early October, he said.
“They’ve been working so hard,” he said.
While based in Newtown, NewArts does not have a formal home ... yet. Loucks is determined to focus his efforts on that necessity on the other side of the new year. He would like to see a formal home base for NewArts before the company reaches its tenth anniversary in early 2023.
NewArts began life rehearsing and performing at Newtown High School. It did five shows there, according to NewArts Director Michael Unger.
The company then worked with Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel for two years, and Masuk High School in Monroe for two years, presenting eight additional productions between the two locations.
Newtown Congregational Church also served as rehearsal space for previous productions.
This year NewArts has returned to Newtown for rehearsals and production. Although auditions for A Christmas Carol were done at nearby C.H. Booth Library, everything else is taking place under one roof. Rehearsals are in Edmond Town Hall’s gymnasium, in the theater on the building’s main floor, and even the Alexandria Room on the third floor.
“To be working within the walls of where we’ll be performing is what I want to become routine,” Loucks said.
Loucks admits finding a permanent space for all of that is a challenge. He is not dissuaded, however.
“The building/space challenge,” he said, “and how to have everything all under one roof? That’s what my dream is: to find the one place where we can have classes, and rehearsals, and performances, and offices.”
That’s the future, however. Meanwhile, showtime approaches.
“We’re loading sets and tech this week,” Loucks said Monday morning. “Costumes are in house now. It’s time to make those two worlds collide.”
Timothy Huber is playing Scrooge, taking over the role played in a few previous productions by Graeme Malcolm. When the Equity actor was unable to return as Ebenezer Scrooge this year, Huber — who played Bob Cratchit in the most recent NewArts production in Bethel — stepped right up, said Loucks.
Among others, the adult cast also includes James Wolff as Bob Cratchit and Rebecca Spalvieri as Lily and Belle. Loucks will also be on the stage, portraying Nephew Fred.
“My whole family is involved,” he said with a laugh. “My wife Erin is the assistant choreographer, our daughter is making her stage debut, and our son is on the stage crew.
“A few families are all participating,” he added. “There are a lot of returning families, in fact, and a lot of new faces, which I think is important for NewArts.”
Loucks is pleased to note the show also features a diverse cast.
The adult cast members will perform all eight shows. The younger cast members are performing four shows each, in either the Holly or Mistletoe cast.
Choreographer Jennifer Paulson-Lee is the lead choreographer, restaging from original choreography by Rob Ashford.
The message in the David Thompson adaptation, said Loucks, “may take some time to get out, but there’s light in every scene. It still allows the story to move.”
While the story remains true to the original Charles Dickens novella published 177 years ago, Thompson’s adaptation helps audiences understand a little more about the idiosyncrasies behind Ebenezer Scrooge. As NewArts Director Michael Unger recently told The Newtown Bee, Scrooge is 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.”
NewArts audiences will, Unger said, “feel for that character, even though he’s an anti-hero for a while.”
Seating for A Christmas Carol is general admission. The theater will be contained to about 80% capacity, Loucks said, and all attendees will be required to wear facemasks.
Rehearsals have been done with performers in masks, although all have been vaccinated and will not be wearing masks during performances.
“We want our audiences to feel safe,” he said. Laughing, he added, “If people can wear masks for Broadway, they can wear them for NewArts.”
The lobby of Edmond Town Hall will host a pop-up Swag Shoppe and info booth both weekends. There will also be silent auctions, beer and wine available for purchase, and final ticket purchases, although Loucks notes that the latter can be done very easily before stepping into 45 Main Street.
“Our posters have a QR code that can be scanned, and it will take you right to our Ticketleap page,” he said. “Our website also has a button for ticket sales.
“Once you get to the ticket sales page, each performance listing includes a note for which cast will be performing each show,” he added.
“Our goal is to make this a yearly event that the town looks forward to,” he said. “NewArts and the holidays on Main Street. That would be a wonderful goal.”
The 2021 NewArts production of 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.
Tickets for all performances are $20 for balcony seating, $28 for orchestra/main floor seats. Seating is general admission. Visit newarts.org for additional information and ticket purchases.
Associate Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.