Wheaton Drama brings 'A Christmas Carol' musical to the stage
Wheaton Drama Inc. presents the holiday family friendly musical adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" on Nov. 25 to Dec. 18 at Playhouse 111 in Wheaton.
Academy Award winning composer Alan Menken, who wrote the music for "Beauty and the Beast," "Aladdin," "Little Mermaid" and "Pocahontas," collaborated with Lynn Ahrens and wrote the music for "A Christmas Carol" so children can experience the joy of this Christmas classic.
Wealthy business owner Ebenezer Scrooge is selfish miser who treats his fellow man with disdain. He is destined for a future of endless misery. Scrooge is visited by three spirits who intend to give him a chance to save himself and achieve happiness through acts of kindness for others.
Even though living on the edge of poverty, Scrooge's employee, Bob Cratchit, with Mrs. Cratchit and their children, including a sickly Tiny Tim, never lose the joy of living. What they lack in possessions is made up for when their family is together.
Bruce Ebner, co-producer of the Wheaton Drama production, says the show is all about holiday family togetherness. He is excited to have six different families represented in the cast or working as crew. He noted, "It's a family show." He added, "We are just trying to do a version that's a traditional representation of the show. There's no avant-garde. The ghosts aren't scary, but eerie."
Ebner said he wanted to direct "A Christmas Carol" because this is his favorite time of year and that his mother influenced him in that. Also, he likes working with a cast ranging in age from 6 to 60.
"A Christmas Carol" is a favorite among many to watch on film or stage during the holidays.
When asked what makes the story different from other theatrical productions, Linda Spadlowski, co-director notes, "This show uniquely expands upon a scene featured in Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' that is frequently omitted from film adaptations. During the visitation of the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge is shown Christmas as celebrated throughout the world by people from all walks of life. (Versions that edit it) limit the ambitious scope of Dickens' novel and the powerful spirit of Christmas which extends beyond the principle characters and encompasses the entire world."
"This production brings Victorian London to life and fills the stage with enchanting characters who represent the people essential to the Christmas season: the shopkeepers, the workers, the children playing games and the families at the table. From the streets of London to Fezziwig's ball, our cast creates a festive atmosphere the audiences will find impossible to resist."
Scrooge is played by Stan Austin who is pleased to be reprising his role in the musical version of "A Christmas Carol," having last played it just before the pandemic. He insightfully says of Scrooge, "Scrooge is complicated character in many ways. As a businessman he was a success but as a man, life has not been good to him. Life has hardened his heart."
Austin dives deeper into the character in a way that will resonate with many. "The audience may relate to Scrooge through the impact of the pandemic on all of us. The isolation we all felt was palpable. Imagine how a lifetime of that isolation would feel. That is what happened to Scrooge."
Austin playfully adds, " This musical is different from other Disney musicals (with music written by Menken) in that the protagonist is a miserable old man and not a lovely princess. It is in Dickensian London and not a castle above or below the sea."
He encourages families to see the show because, "It is very family friendly and teaches a lesson of redemption and the keeping of the Christmas spirit yesterday, tomorrow and today."
Additional cast members include: Garrett Ard, Bethany Barber, Jeff Blume, Eva Bogdanov, Molly Brown, Niall Casserly, Dana Clouser, Pat Daly, Rachael DeGeorge, Morgan Dietkus, Magnolia Dietkus-Minard, Charlotte Goodin, Elizabeth Goodin Rowe, Luke Hafkey, Abigail Hamilton-Campbell, Jessica Johnson, Laura Kaster, Owen Kaster, Rod Kelly, Heather Pauliks, Katie Romanski, Spencer Schillinger, Meredith Strombeck, Max Trotter, Steven Wesolek, Elijah Zimmerman, Guy Zimmerman and Oliver Zimmerman.
The production team for "A Christmas Carol" at Wheaton Drama also includes Victoria Fritz and Elyse Willis as co-producers, Aaron Zimmerman as musical director and Katy Smith as choreographer.
"A Christmas Carol," written by Mike Ockrent and Lynn Ahrens, based on the Charles Dickens book with original music by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, opens the day after Thanksgiving on Nov. 25 and runs for four weekends.
Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, and 2 p.m. matinees on Saturday and Sunday through Dec. 18 at Wheaton Drama's Playhouse 111, 111 Hale St. in downtown Wheaton.
American Sign Language interpreted performances are slated for Sunday, Dec. 4, and Friday, Dec. 9.
Tickets are available at www.wheatondrama.org or by calling (630) 260-1820.