The Chilliwack Players Guild will be presenting a heart-warming production about kindness and giving when the members bring the classic tale, A Christmas Carol, to the stage this holiday season.
It will be a theatre-in-the-round production inside the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre Nov. 21 to Dec. 7.
This will be the first time in more than 20 years that the guild will mount the beloved Charles Dickens story. This production is a Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of the novella and it’s co-directed by Janet Carroll and Astrid Beugeling.
“We wanted to really get the feeling of the magical quality of A Christmas Carol, which is the story of a man with a very small, mean spirit growing into this generous, kind person,” Carroll says. “What we like about this version of it is it’s really faithful to the novel.”
Some of the actors are narrators at times, reciting lines directly from the book first published in 1843. It brings a “real, authentic Dickensian language” to the piece, she adds.
This adaptation of A Christmas Carol has both a chorus (the 23 actors onstage) and a choir (six female a capella singers located on the catwalk).
The 23 actors will be playing a whopping 70-plus characters. Everyone plays more than one character, except for Ken Fynn who takes on the iconic role of Ebenezer Scrooge. He’s onstage the entire time, minus about 15 seconds.
“It’s a daunting task for the person who plays Scrooge. You need to carry this show with the force of your personality and he does a beautiful job,” Carroll says.
“He captures that essence of the character,” Beugeling adds.
The actors are both cast and crew in this production, which keeps them constantly busy.
There are no recorded sound effects in the play, everything will be done live by the actors either vocally or by using objects. The sound effects — such as whistling like the wind, shaking thunder sheets, and rattling chains — will be coming from both backstage and onstage.
The actors also do all the set changes and there are no blackouts, making the production flow nicely from one scene to the next.
“It’s really fun for actors,” Carroll says. “You get to play multiple roles, you get to be different characters, you also get to do other things — you’re doing a sound effect, you’re bringing on a set piece, or a costume piece.”
What Beugeling likes best about A Christmas Carol is how Scrooge gets to have a look back on his life. He realizes who he was, what he lost in his life and that he now “has a window to make things right.”
“It’s a way for all of us to look at how we’re living and the choices we’re making today,” Beugeling says.
“Dickens was a commenter on his time about poverty… he was a social justice warrior. His stories are about grabbing the moment to give to others, to be generous to others, to think of others,” Carroll says.
“Are you going to measure your life by being selfish and self-centred, or are you going to measure it by giving and loving and being connected to other people?” Carroll asks. “We hope that people feel connected to each other and the story. It’s such a beautiful story.”
Aside from the 23 actors and six choir members, the production includes about 45 other crew members, plus a live chicken named Hei Hei.
The role of Tiny Tim will be played by seven-year-old Autumn Long, and Dennis Rackliff takes on Bob Cratchit. Steve Saunders is Jacob Marley, Sheri Eyre is Mrs. Cratchit, and Glenn Howard plays Mr. Fezziwig. The Spirits of Christmas Present and Past will be played by Jodie Bartman and Adaeze Obeta, respectively.
Musical director is Judy Hill, choreographer is Shelley Wojcik, set designer is Graham Archer, and costume designer is Mary Spani. The show’s stage manager is Jacqui Higginbottom.
The Chilliwack Players Guild’s Production of A Christmas Carol runs Nov. 21 to Dec. 7 at the Chilliwack Cultural Centre in the Rotary Hall Studio Theatre. Preview is Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. Show times: Nov. 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, Dec. 4, 5 and 6 at 7:30 p.m. Matinees: Nov. 24, Dec. 1 and 7 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: adult $25, senior/student $20. Preview night two for $25. Tickets available at the centre’s box office, by calling 604-391-7469, or online at chilliwackculturalcentre.ca.