In normal times, the story of Scrooge – his greed and bad temper, his haunted by three ghosts, and his ultimate transformation into a kind, benevolent soul – may seem a bit of a Christmas cliché. Who doesn’t know the story? And who hasn’t seen one of the many manifestations of pop culture, from television specials to films to cartoon characters like Disney’s Scrooge McDuck? But these are not normal times, and the Denver Center Theater Company’s version of A Christmas Carol has always been rich, ostentatious, and full of music. It does full justice to Charles Dickens’ words, showing adorable children and charming adults, making children in the audience scream with mixed fear and joy over the appearance of the ghosts (artist director Chris Coleman says he saw adults visibly flinch at the sudden chain – rattling appearance of Jacob Marley) and attracts crowds of little boys in suits and little girls in glittering clothes.
The upcoming production, which opens on November 19 and runs until December 26 in the newly renovated Wolf Theater, is the first company show to open since the local theaters closed in March a year ago due to the pandemic.
“It’s really exciting that we have an audience inside,” says Coleman. “And to tell a story that will be loved by people of all ages.
DCTC Artistic Director Chris Coleman.
“It’s a crazy time right now figuring out how to rehearse safely, how to work safely with children under twelve, what the protocols are like backstage,” he adds. “It takes more work and vigilance than we are used to. There are many new actors, a few scenes have been reworked, who sings what has changed a bit, there are new costumes. I think it’s going well. It’s intense at the moment to be in a room with this group size, but the atmosphere is good. ”
In addition to securing the occupation through required vaccinations and regular tests for children under the age of twelve, the center enforces vaccination and mask protocols for the audience.
A Christmas Carol is directed by Melissa Rain Anderson, and Sam Gregory returns in the role of Scrooge, which he first took on in 2016. Gregory is a talented and versatile actor who is as compelling in comedy as he was as the viciously suppressed racist in Curious Theater Company’s White Guy on the Bus several years ago.
Although he attended readings last year, some with friends on Zoom, Gregory said his last time was in a real theater before Christmas carol rehearsals began in March 2020 when he was working on a preview for a play called Admissions at Curious. Production was stopped the day after this preview.
Going back to rehearsal “felt like being apart for a long time and then back together, picking up where you left off,” says Gregory. “Everyone in the cast met an old friend. The first days were very emotional. Some tears were shed, some long hugs. “
He added that he enjoyed his year-long retirement to some extent. But when he returned to the theater, “I realized how big the loss was that my job was being taken from me.”
One Christmas carol seems particularly relevant to Gregory: “It is the story of a man who is completely isolated and cut off from society, who finds his way back, and that is now a very emotional story that we have all been through. We all lived in Waiting for Godot. Exactly the same thing would happen every day. We were with exactly the same person and waited for something from Amazon that never showed up. ”
Scrooge’s journey begins with a loss for Gregory. “We know that his sister, who was the only one who loved him, died. He lost the love of his life because he hugged money for her. Jacob Marley, his business partner and friend, recently passed away. But in the end he is reunited with his nephew and found a way to fit into his family again and be part of the community. It’s always a good story, but it has a resonance now that it didn’t have two years ago. There’s a line on the show: ‘Where did all this go?’ And I say this line and I think, ‘Yes. Where did all this go? ‘ It all went away so quickly. We all lived normally. and within two weeks it was gone. “
But despite all the sadness of the character, Gregory says, “I like this Scrooge. He says really funny things. He’s got a quirky sense of humor. ”Overall, the cast found more humor in the script than before, along with“ a little bit of horror so we can get through some darkness to come to light ”.
The cast of A Christmas Carol 2018.
The script for this Christmas story is closely based on the Dickens original, although Gregory and director Anderson change the character of Scrooge a little. It is described in the book as “cold as ice, shut down and locked,” observed Gregory. “It reads very well, but when you play the first third of the show it’s not very active or theatrical.
“Its shutdown is intentional,” he continues. “Because of his losses, he decided that contact with people was painful. That is our attitude towards character. In the novella the candle is out and lit again. In this production his candle burns, but he keeps it hidden and doesn’t even know that it is burning. In the course of events it gets lighter. “
The Denver Center’s interpretation does not ignore the politics of history and Dickens’ deep concern for the plight of the poor in Victorian England. “In Dickens’ time there was a stark difference between the haves and the haves, and it still exists today,” says Gregory. “Dickens’s strong call for social justice is on my mind.”
“I think Christmas Carol is hard to make now,” says Coleman. “How traditional should we be? How inventive?
“Just the gift of being able to collect and share this story feels special now than it has any other year,” he concludes.
A Christmas carol runs Friday, November 19 through December 26, at the Wolf Theater in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Shows are at 7:30 pm every day of the week except Mondays; Sunday matinees take place at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are available at 303-893-4100 or at denvercenter.org.