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All For One has Christmas spirit with classic tale

November 9, 2018

All for One Productions recently noted on social media that it is rare that a local theater season goes by without a production of “A Christmas Carol.”

The theater company originally planned to produce a 1977 adaptation by Doris Baizley two years ago, but another local group had already announced a version for the same season.

“It’s our turn now to do this, and it’s an adaptation that I fell in love with when I read it,” says artistic director Lauren Nichols during a recent interview. “I’m very excited about it.”

Set around 1900, the Baizley’s adaptation of the Charles Dickens story opens with a down-on-its-luck British touring theater company filling in open roles with its stage manager and prop boy. As the characters fall into the roles, it becomes the more familiar “A Christmas Carol” with elements and lines that the audience knows.

“I want the audience to be fully drawn (in),” Nichols says. “This is one of the more immersive plays we’ve done.”

The audience is encouraged to sing along with several Christmas carols during the show and can dance during Fezziwig’s party. The hope is that audience members will feel like they are a part of the story, Nichols says. An a capella choir from Unity Performing Arts will sing Christmas carols as the audience arrives for each performance, helping to get them in the spirit.

The local production stars Peter Meyer as Scrooge, Matt Derby as Cratchit and Jack Hanson as Tiny Tim. Christmas came early for the 12 performers in the show because Nichols cast the production in May so she had time to teach four of the actors to play English handbells over the summer.

There will be a Salvation Army kettle at each performance, and guests will be encouraged to donate to that organization instead of for refreshments like is usual at an All for One show. That fits with what Dickens intended when he wrote “A Christmas Carol,” Nichols says.

The author wanted to shine a light on the plight of the poor, and the story has now been doing that for generations.

“It’s the most famous Christmas story other than the Bible that anyone knows in English,” Nichols says.

She believes people come out year after year : no matter what group is putting on a version of “A Christmas Carol” : because Dickens’ story has all the elements of what the holiday means. It has music, family, a big meal, gifts and self-examination.

“Somehow this season of the year calls out the best in everyone and they’re able to put aside the differences and really rejoice together,” Nichols says.

: Corey McMaken, The Journal Gazette

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