November 14, 2009 7:02:00 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
It''s dusk on Christmas Eve. All is cold in London''s darkening streets. As gloom settles in the accounting office of Scrooge and Marley, old Ebenezer Scrooge, that bitter miser, sparingly lights a candle at his desk. Nearby, his shivering clerk, Bob Cratchit, copies accounts.
And so begins "A Christmas Carol: the Musical." This Mavor Moore adaptation of Charles Dickens'' familiar tale of revelation, repentance and forgiveness will be brought to entertaining life by a cast of more than 30 on Friday and Saturday, Nov. 20-21. The production by the Frank P. Phillips YMCA Drama Team -- The Master''s Theatre -- begins at 7 p.m. nightly at Joe Cook Elementary Fine Arts Magnet School located at 2217 Seventh St. N. in Columbus.
Part parable, part ghost story, part social criticism, Mr. Dickens'' 166-year-old classic Victorian morality tale has captured audiences since it was first published in 1843, when the author was 23. It has never been out of print and has been adapted for stage, opera and film more than once -- most recently in Disney''s 3D big screen version released Nov. 4.
The late Moore''s version remains true to the original story and contains 13 delightful musical numbers, adding new dimension to this well-known cast of characters.
"This play is one of my personal favorites because it is so light-hearted, fun and funny!" said director Terri Gillis. "The musical arrangements are extraordinary, with enough variety to please the entire family."
You''re a mean one
Brent Green has the honor of putting the Bah, Humbug into the character of Scrooge for this production. Before a recent rehearsal in a clamorous Y gymnasium, the Columbus Air Force Base pilot stood off in a corner, in jeans and T-shirt, quietly running through his second act lines.
The rest of the scattered cast, many of them school-age and most in period costume, fill the gym, laughing and mingling. Some sit cross-legged on the floor. Their excited voices fill the cavernous space.
"To try to act like an old, cranky man is weird," grins Green. "This role is challenging; Scrooge''s personality changes so much from beginning to end."
He speeds through a few more lines, practicing a curmudgeonly scowl and his British accent. "But," he pauses, "I absolutely love working with all these kids."
One of those is 10-year-old Andrew Foreman, who portrays Cratchit''s son, young Tiny Tim. This is the first YMCA drama team play for the Immanuel Center for Christian Education student. Dressed in knickers, vest and cap, and carrying Tiny Tim''s cane, he looks every inch a child of England''s 19th-century working class. In real life, he''s the son of Bonnie and Steve Foreman of Columbus.
"This is fun," says Andrew, who has been in church and school plays. "I guess the hardest part is learning my lines and my solos -- and remembering to walk with a limp every time I''m on stage."
Gillis, his director, adds a high compliment: "Our Tiny Tim has a voice that is out of this world."
Anne Burkart has her own character traits to work on. The longtime drama team performer has channeled some accents before, but her Cockney washerwoman this time around is a unique challenge.
"I picked up every movie I could get my hands on," she explains. "I got old versions of ''A Christmas Carol,'' I got ''My Fair Lady.'' I watched YouTube video (with Cockney accents) over and over."
She shows off what she''s learned by reciting a line: "Well, you con tell ''im from me that ''e''ll naught get back one o'' ''is sherts til oi gets paid fo'' last week.
"The first time I tried this, they said I sounded like Bill Moss playing Ernest T. Bass in ''Back to Mayberry,''" she laughs, referring to a previous production.
All of these compelling characters, plus many more, will be on the Cook stage Friday and Saturday, offering an uplifting start to the holiday season.
Advance tickets are $7 at any Lowndes County YMCA. Admission at the door is $8. For more information, contact the Frank P. Phillips YMCA at 662-328-7696.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.