`A Christmas Carol' times three in the area

Local theater groups offer classic tale of Scrooge this month at four locations

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December 02, 2005|By MARY JOHNSON | MARY JOHNSON,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

The line "Bah, humbug!" will resound from Annapolis to Arnold to Brooklyn Park to Savage when local theater groups tell the classic tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.

Three adaptations of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - one nonmusical opening tonight and two musical versions opening next weekend - will bring Scrooge and his line to his past, present and future Christmases of Victorian London.

All three productions promise to respect Dickens' original words revealing Scrooge's transformation from selfish skinflint to open-hearted merchant sharing his wealth with those around him.

Pasadena Theatre Company's production opens tonight in Arnold at Anne Arundel Community College's Humanities Recital Hall with a 55-member cast of professional-caliber, all-volunteer Maryland-based actors, many from Anne Arundel County.

Directing the cast is Chuck Dick, who will play Scrooge. Another leading Pasadena actor, Tom Delaney - remembered for his portrayals of Ed Norton in Pasadena's The Honeymooners and Uncle Billy in It's Wonderful Life - is cast as Bob Cratchitt.

Another Carol - this with new music and lyrics by Michael Hulett - opens Dec. 9 at Chesapeake Arts Center's Studio Theater in Brooklyn Park.

"New this year, instead of the Main Theater, this highly atmospheric show will be done in the more intimate Studio Theater, where the audience will feel the environmental aspects of Victorian England," Hulett said. "The show is taken from Dickens word for word to make for a most authentic version. We have an excellent cast of 15 who will make the story come alive."

Colonial Players' version of A Christmas Carol, with play and lyrics written by Richard Wade and music by Dick Gessner, marks its 25th anniversary in this production being directed by Wade at Colonial's theater-in-the-round on East Street in Annapolis. Colonial's Carol is a treasured Annapolis holiday tradition where family members return each year to appear in the show with children and grandchildren.

Recalling the show's origins, writer/director Wade said: "The first production in December of 1981 came about by accident. In August, Dean Johnson, former mayor of Annapolis and president of the theater, asked me what I was working on, and I mentioned A Christmas Carol. When he asked me how far along it was, I replied, `Not far at all.' When he asked who was composing the music, my answer was, `I have no idea.'

"Dick Gessner was standing in another line nearby. Dick and I had written a string of successful musicals for children about 10 years before. Johnson looked over at Gessner and said, `What about him?' I shrugged, and Dean said, `If you could get the show written, Colonial Players will do it.'

"Gessner and I talked about it and decided to try. Two weeks later, they set audition dates, and we were committed to getting it written. We had to coerce people to audition and nudge them to take roles in a show they had not read or heard one note or word of one song. The songs were written over the next few weeks, with the last one finished about two nights before the show opened."

Wade said he would first write the words, then Gessner would compose the music to them.

"It was quite a roller coaster for the cast," he said.

Wade said he was the first production's director and Gessner the musical director because no one else wanted the jobs.

"We had an incredibly devoted cast and crew that believed in the show," he said. "The reviews the first year were more than we could have hoped for, and that's what started it all."

In addition to directing the production for its first three years, Wade returned in 1995, 2000 and again this year.

"Over the years, parents and children have been in it together and many cast members have returned multiple times - with Ed Wintermute holding the record," Wade said. "Years ago, his daughter appeared in it with him, and this year his granddaughter is on stage. My daughter, Sarah, who was not born when this was written [she is 16], is in it for the fifth time. That this little musical play has meant so much to so many people on stage, back stage and in the audience is astonishing and heartening to me."

Pasadena's production runs at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 3 p.m. Sunday in AACC's Humanities Recital Hall and next weekend at the same times at Carroll Baldwin Hall in Savage. Tickets are $12 for PTC members and children younger than age 12 and $15 for all others. Call 410-975- 0200 to order tickets.

Hulett's Chesapeake Arts Center version opens Dec. 9 and runs through Dec. 18 with performances at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $15 for nonmembers and $12 for CAC members and $8 for children. Reservations: 410-636- 6597.

Colonial's Carol will run Thursdays and on weekends from Dec. 8 to 18. The schedule is: 8 p.m. Thursdays, 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. Fridays, 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets are $7 and will be sold at the box office an hour before the show.

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