Musical version of Dickens tale opens Dec. 7

NEIGHBORS

November 25, 2001|By Christina Bittner | Christina Bittner,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

WITH the Christmas season near, the television networks will begin bombarding us with holiday programs that, after being seen 10 times, begin to lose their appeal.

Perhaps a new and different production of an old favorite will cure our rerun blahs.

The Musical Artists Theater will present a new musical production of the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol weekends Dec. 7-16 in Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, 194 Hammonds Lane.

Lyricist Michael Hulett said the production adheres to the original story - with all dialogue coming straight from Dickens' pen. The sets and costumes strive to create a vivid picture of Victorian England in the 1840s.

"We tried to make it as authentic as possible," Hulett said. "Obviously, Dickens didn't have singing [in the book], so we were very careful. We hope that we added to the show, not detracted from it."

The production is a virtual Brooklyn Park High School reunion. Longtime BPHS teacher Hal Gomer is the scenic director. Former student Kevin Hodges is the production assistant, Ruth Hulett the costume designer and Ken Skrzesz is director. The cast features John Wellmann as Scrooge and David Leisure as Bob Cratchit. All graduated from Brooklyn Park.

Other cast members are Elyse Caudill, Greg Coale, Stacey Eckler, Katie Fraser, Charlotte Giza, Michael Houk, Ruth Hulett, Erika Kern, Andrew Kern, Jennifer Kersey, Sarah McHale, Ron Sarro, Will Sherman, Ashleigh Smith, Terrance Sullivan, Lauren Teeple and Laura Weiss.

"We have a very, very good group of talented people," Michael Hulett said. "I've been involved with area theater for a long time, and these people are very dedicated.

"John Wellmann is a professional actor. He came down from New York for this. He's worked with the best, and says that this group is among the best that he has ever worked with. He was really impressed with the talent that we have here," he said.

The BPHS connection is a coincidence, Hulett said. "A year ago, we [Musical Artists Theater] were talking about doing a production, and Hal Gomer knew about the Chesapeake Center, so we went down and talked with Wayne Shipley, the center's executive director. Hal has kept in touch with some of his former students. That's why the core actors are from this area," he said.

The show was first presented as an off-Broadway production in New York. The critics have been more than kind, Hulett said, adding, "It's received universal praise, it really has. We've been very, very pleased."

The music for the production was written by Doug Yetter.

In honor of the show's Brooklyn Park connection, Hulett and the management of the Chesapeake Center have decided to dedicate the performances on Dec. 7, 8 and 9 to the alumni of Brooklyn Park High.

J.C. Crowe, Chesapeake Center's director of operations, said that the theater has enjoyed a "brisk response" from alumni.

BPHS alumni who attend any show that weekend will receive a free ticket for every ticket purchased. Information: Chesapeake Center, 410-636-6597.

Admission is $12 for members of the Chesapeake Center and $15 for nonmembers. Performances will be held at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

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