November 18, 2011 in Features

‘Christmas’ future

Civic set to stage updated version that was adapted in ’08
By The Spokesman-Review
 
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

In a scene from Civic Theatre’s production of “A Chirstmas Carol,” Scrooge, right, (Thomas Heppler) is visted by Marley (Brad Picard.
(Full-size photo)

If you go
‘A Christmas Carol’

When: Opens tonight and continues through Dec. 18. Curtain times are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Where: Spokane Civic Theatre’s Main Stage, 1020 N. Howard St.

Cost: $29/adults, $27/seniors, $22/students (special $11 tickets available for shows this weekend only, with a food donation to Second Harvest, through the Civic box office)

Call: The Civic box office, (509) 325-2507, or TicketsWest outlets, (800) 325-SEAT, www.ticketswest.com

Everybody has seen “A Christmas Carol.”

Yet you may not have seen one like the Spokane Civic Theatre’s version. It has:

• Three “ghost” puppets, including the 14-foot-tall Ghost of Christmas Future, operated by three people.

• Two dry-ice foggers.

• Two chemical foggers.

• Black-light special effects.

• 30 classic Christmas carols accompanied by an onstage fiddler.

Not to mention a cast of 45 (including lots of kids), Victorian costumes and a period “storybook” set. And, of course, the Charles Dickens plot, faithfully rendered, about Scrooge, Marley and a little boy named Tiny Tim.

“People have called the box office and said, ‘We’ve already seen “A Christmas Carol” ’ and I say, ‘You haven’t seen this version. Trust me. It’s different,’ ” said Yvonne A.K. Johnson, the Civic’s executive artistic director.

This version is the Barbara Field adaptation first seen at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.

“A Christmas Carol” is a holiday cash cow at the Guthrie – yet they can’t just do the same version over and over again. So the theater regularly commissions new adaptations. This one is the 2008 adaptation.

It’s not exactly a musical in the strict sense – Johnson calls it a “play with music” – but it does include renditions of familiar carols such as “The Wassail Song” and “I Saw Three Ships,” sung by a quartet and various choruses.

Fiddler Angelique VanDorpe provides the sole accompaniment.

Director Troy Nickerson has added his own stamp to the production, particularly when it comes to the three ghosts. Inspired by the Broadway smash “War Horse,” Nickerson decided to use puppets to portray the ghosts. Yet don’t think of them as hand-puppets or marionettes.

Two of them – Christmas Present and Christmas Future – are 14 feet tall. Christmas Past is 6 feet tall and often “flies” or hovers off the ground.

Each is operated by three people, one of whom also supplies the character’s voice. Patrick Treadway – actor, director and man of many talents – created the puppets.

This should give the ghost scenes an eerie, other-worldly feel, helped along by an extensive, almost cinematic, sound design by music director Benjamin Bentler.

Nickerson has plenty of “Christmas Carol” experience. He played Scrooge at the Civic in 1998 and has directed several subsequent productions there.

Thomas Heppler, a stalwart of the Civic stage, plays Scrooge. Mark Pleasant plays the role of Narrator, a Dickens-like figure. Brad Picard plays the ghost of Jacob Marley and Grayson Paine plays Tiny Tim.

This weekend only, you can catch “A Christmas Carol” at a discount price – and help those in need at the same time.

Tickets for the shows tonight, Saturday and Sunday are only $11 with a food donation to Second Harvest. These tickets must be purchased through the Civic box office, in person or by phone.


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