Tears of Christmas

It’s the story of one man’s salvation through the saving power of Christmas.  It’s A Christmas Carol and it is playing at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

OCP’s classic tradition is back on stage for the 47th time and this marks my third year in a row reviewing it and, I believe, my fifth time reviewing a version of this show.  I’m sometimes asked why I would review a show I’ve reviewed before and the answer is simple.

It’s never quite the same show.

Actors change.  Directors change.  Crew members change.  And with every change comes a new bit of insight.  A different way of doing things that makes the show original unto itself.  Even if everything were identical from the previous year, it would still be different because new and fresh inspirations would be infused into the show.  As it happens this show had a number of changes this year beginning with a blend of the new and classic as Susie Baer-Collins returns to direct the holiday tradition along with OCP Artistic Director, Stephen Santa, and Jim McKain who were making their directing debuts with this show.  The end result was the most moving rendition of A Christmas Carol I have witnessed at OCP.

With the fusion of the three directors, you assuredly see elements and moments from past productions of the show, but you also see new and original ones as well.  You also get a crucial new element that I had never seen in any previous production:  somberness.  This show began with a very sad feeling, almost as if Scrooge’s essence was infused into every jot and tittle of this world.  I admit I was hooked and I shed a few tears along the way.  Baer-Collins, Santa, and McKain guided their performers to solid performances and had me believing in Christmas’ power.

I always enjoy watching the ensemble, especially when they’re really into their performances.  As I gazed about and saw the smiling faces and lights in the eyes of the actors, I was well and truly sucked into their world.  Some stellar performances in the supporting cast came from Cullen Wiley as Topper who is truly amusing when he gives clues as he plays Yes and No at Fred’s party.  Jacob Roman brings a real meekness to Bob Cratchit whose strong heart allows him to work with the miserly and unkind Scrooge.  Christina Rohling is a loving mother and the rock supporting her husband as Mrs. Cratchit.

Don Keelan-White unlocked the full potential of Jacob Marley with his attack on the role this season.  There was something truly haunting (no pun intended) in both the supernatural and the emotional senses of the word with his performance.  He seemed otherworldly and very human at the same time.  His regret at his failure to help his fellow man during his lifetime was palpable and sincere and I loved his scaring the bejeepers out of Scrooge as he smacked his chains against the floor and pointedly warned Scrooge about the length and weight of his own invisible chains.

DJ Tyree was the Ghost of Christmas Present I had long envisioned.  Tyree just bled majesty and regality and basked in the essence of this spirit.  He had the jovial nature needed for this generous ghost, but also gave Scrooge a pointed verbal jab or two as he threw Scrooge’s cruel words back in his face when discussing the potential fate of Tiny Tim.

For the 17th and final time, Jerry Longe takes the reins of this show as Ebenezer Scrooge.  Indeed, I think the knowledge that this is his last go around added to some of the somber feeling of the show and certainly lent it an additional power.  Longe’s take on Scrooge this time was an angle I’ve never seen played before in any version and I really loved it.  Longe made Scrooge spiritually dead.  By that I mean, he was utterly emotionless.  Life held no joy for him and his accumulation of wealth was just something he did as it certainly brought him no happiness or comfort.  So convincing was Longe in this spiritual death that it made his Scrooge seem very old and frail.  It also had me riding along on Scrooge’s salvation train in a way I had never experienced it before.  Longe was shedding real tears at some points as Scrooge’s dead heart was slowly resurrected and I was searching for my own tissue right along with him.  His redemption had a purity I had never seen before and left me with a sense of divine satisfaction.

Longe seemed to improv asides a bit more this year, but they were fun and one aside had me doubled over with laughter. You’ll know it when you hear it. Truly, it is a fine finale for this treasure of local theatre.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra perfectly played the Christmas carols and hymns and there was an x factor this year that gave it that extra emotional punch.  Michelle Garrity’s choreography was always charming especially in the party scenes.  Linsday Pape’s costumes transport you to the Victorian era of Charles Dickens.  Jim Othuse’s set helps add to that feeling of a bygone era with the old-fashioned buildings and his lights add emotional depths with stars, the pale green of Jacob Marley, and the near total blackness while Scrooge waits for the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.  Tim Burkhart and John Gibilisco’s sounds always enhance things with the ghostly voice modifications for the spirits, the gentle tolling of a clock tower bell, and the tinkling sound hearkening the appearance of Ghost of Christmas Past.  Andrew Morgan’s properties add so much with the sight of feasts, toys, and Christmas items.  Darrin Golden’s technical direction makes the supernatural realistic and Janet Morr’s artistry enhances the sets.

I think you’re truly in for a Christmas treat this year as this incarnation of A Christmas Carol is going to hit you in a way you’ve never been hit before.  You’ll truly marvel at the power of Christmas.

A Christmas Carol runs at the Omaha Community Playhouse through Dec 23.  Showtimes are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm.  Tickets start at $40 and may be purchased at the OCP Box Office, by phone at (402) 553-0800, or online at OmahaPlayhouse.com.  The Omaha Community Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass Street in Omaha, NE.

Photo provided by Omaha Community Playhouse

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. . .At the OCP

A Christmas Carol Opens Friday at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha, NEA Christmas Carol opens this Friday, Nov 16, at the Omaha Community Playhouse.  The show will run in the Hawks Mainstage Theatre from Nov 16 through Dec 23.

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol.  Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with lovely costumes, exquisite music, beautifully crafted sets and special effects second to none.  Perfect for the whole family!

Tickets for A Christmas Carol are available at TicketOmaha.com or through the Omaha Community Playhouse box office by calling 402-553-0800 or visiting 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE  68132. For more information, please visit www.omahaplayhouse.com.

Production:  A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  Adapted by Charles Jones with musical orchestration by John J. Bennett.

Dates:  Nov 16-Dec 23, 2018 on the Hawks Mainstage Theatre (There are no performances on Nov 21 or Nov 22)

Show Times:  7pm on Wednesdays.  7:30pm Thurs-Sat.  2pm and 6:30pm on Sundays.

Tickets:  Tickets start at $40.  Prices may vary by performance.  Tickets available for purchase at the Omaha Community Playhouse box office, 6915 Cass St, Omaha, NE  68132, by phone at 402-553-0800 or online at http://www.ticketomaha.com.

Directors:  Kimberly Faith Hickman and Ablan Roblin

Choreographer:  Michelle Garrity

Featuring

Jerry Longe as Ebenezer Scrooge

Chris Berger as Bob Cratchit

Madison White as Tim Cratchit

Don Keelan-White as Jacob Marley

Lori Lynn Ahrends as Ghost of Christmas Past

Bob Gilmore as Ghost of Christmas Present

And a slew of Omaha’s finest theatrical talent!!

It’s Christmas Time at the Playhouse

42nd Annual A Christmas Carol at Omaha Community Playhouse

Omaha’s Holiday Tradition Opens November 17, 2017

Omaha, Neb.— A Christmas Carol will run at the Omaha Community Playhouse in the Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017. This will be the 42nd year for this holiday production at OCP. Actor Jerry Longe returns for his 12th season as Ebenezer Scrooge.

It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol. Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with beautiful costumes, exquisite music, perfectly crafted sets and special effects second to none. Perfect for the whole family!

Production: A Christmas Carol

Credits: By Charles Dickens, Adapted by Charles Jones, Musical orchestration by John J.  Bennett

Directors
:  Kimberly Faith Hickman , Jeff Horger
Music Director: Jim Boggess
Choreographer: Michelle Garrity

Cast

Jacob Roman as Fred

Don Harris as Jake, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Amanda Charles as Nell

Jerry Longe as Ebeneezer Scrooge

Chris Berger as Bob Cratchit

Bob Gilmore as 1st Charity Man, Ghost of Christmas Present, Baker

Marcus Benzel as 2nd Charity Man, Mr. Fezziwig

Jake Parker as Peter Cratchit

Brodhi McClymont as Francis Cratchit

Maddie Smith as Belinda Cratchit

Annabelle DeWater as Tim Cratchit

Don Keelan-White as Jacob Marley, Ball Musician, Man at Cart

Lori Lynn Ahrends as Ghost of Christmas Past

Tyson Bentley, Judson Cloudt, Daniel Davis, Cal Hernandez, Lincoln Hoffart and Neal Jochim as School Boys

Andrew Hedin as Ebby

Stella Clark-Kaczmarek as Fan

Brendan Brown as Dick Wilkins, Poulterer

Catherine Vazquez as Mrs. Fezziwig, Baker’s Wife

Boston Reid as Young Scrooge

Emma Chvala as Belle Fezziwig

Jen Dillon as Mrs. Cratchit

Hannah-Kate Kinney as Martha Cratchit

Elise O’Neil as Millie

Jenna Hager as Lucy

Brandon Fisher as Topper

Amanda Charles as Myrtle Crow

Julia Ervin as Mrs. Dilber, Chestnut Vendor

Ava Palmer as Child with Sled

Adult Ensemble features Annie Hekl, Isabelle RAngel, Alex Nilius

Youth Ensemble features Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Olivia Walling, and Burke Wissman

Sophia Markle as Little Bo Peep, Mary

Caeli Karasek as Little Boy Blue

Cody Girouex as Beggar

Josie Ausman as Greenery Vendor

Kristopher Fleeman as Toyshop Keeper

Fezziwig Ball Dancers will be played by Amanda Charles, Marcus Benzel, Emma Chvala, Chris Berger, Jen Dillon, Brendan Brown, Julia Ervin, Brandon Fisher, Jenna Hager, Kristopher Fleeman, Annie Hekl, Cody Girouex, Elise O’Neil, Alex Nilius, Isabelle Rangel, Boston Reid, Catherine Vazquez, and Jacob Roman

Marley Minions will be played by Jennifer Bonge, Katie Hoskins, Evelyn Kinney, and Reese Uptmor

Tyson Bentley as Joseph

Andrew Hedin, Cal Hernandez, and Neal Jochim as the Wisemen

Daniel Davis as the Innkeeper

Shepherds to be played by Judson Cloudt, Annabelle DeWater, Lincoln Hoffart, Brodhi McClymont, Bruke Wissman

Angels to be played by Josie Ausman, Jennifer Bonge, Stella Clark-Kaczmarek, Katie Hoskins, Cora Johnson, Lilian Johnson, Caeli Karasek, Evelyn Kinney, Ava Palmer, Maddie Smith, Reese Uptmor, and Olivia Walling

 

Show dates: Nov. 17-Dec. 23, 2017; Wednesdays, 7:00 p.m., Thursdays–Saturdays, 7:30 p.m.
and Sundays, 2:00 p.m. & 6:30 p.m. (No performances on Weds., Nov. 22 and Thurs., Nov. 23.)

Tickets: On sale now at the OCP Box Office, by calling (402) 553-0800 or online at www.OmahaPlayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com. Before Dec. 13, tickets start at $38 (adults) and $25 (students). Dec. 13-23, tickets start at $42 (adults) and $29 (students). For groups of 12 or more, tickets are $32 (adults) and $18 (students) for all dates.

Sponsored by: First National Bank, KPMG (orchestra sponsor), JK Barker Foundation (cast dinner sponsor), Rotella’s Bakery (bakery shoppe and snow sponsor) and KETV (media sponsor)

Location: Omaha Community Playhouse, Howard and Rhonda Hawks Mainstage Theatre

6915 Cass Street | Omaha, NE 68132 

Performance note: A shadow interpreted performance for the hearing impaired is scheduled for Sunday, Dec. 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Food drive: Audience members are encouraged to bring nonperishable food items to OCP to benefit the Food Bank for the Heartland as part of Conagra Brand’s Shine the Light on Hunger campaign.

“A Christmas Carol” is Sleeker, But Chipped Around the Edges

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Greedy miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, is given one chance to redeem his soul.  Will a visit by the three spirits of Christmas be enough to gain salvation?  This is the story of A Christmas Carol adapted by Charles Jones from the classic novel by Charles Dickens and celebrating its 40th anniversary at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

Question:  How do you breathe new life into a 40 year old tradition?

Answer:  You put Hilary Adams at the helm.

Ms Adams’ direction gives A Christmas Carol a new lease on life.  More importantly, her direction went a long way in giving me the A Christmas Carol that I’ve long wanted to see.  Ms Adams accomplished this task by trimming a lot of unnecessary fat from the play, cutting a whiplash pace, and, for the most part, guiding her actors to natural, realistic performances.  I applaud Ms Adams for her staging of the story and she and the stage crew deserve especially high praise for the seamless and effortless scene changes.  The only critiques of her direction are that she needed to rein in some of the more cartoony performances that weakened this incredibly realistic production and to slow down the pace just a little bit.  Some of the actors were talking so fast that diction suffered and some important beats got glossed over.

I was extraordinarily pleased with Jerry Longe’s performance as Scrooge.  This was actually my third go-around in watching this play and the two previous times I thought Scrooge was missing something crucial.  This time I got a pitch-perfect Scrooge.  Longe’s Scrooge is cold-hearted, mean, greedy, selfish, and those are his better points.  This is a man that needs redemption.  I thought Longe was especially effective in making Scrooge’s salvation a drawn out process.  He fights changing tooth and nail and changes just a little with each interaction with the spirits until he finally sees the error of his ways.  That slow process makes the light-hearted, giddy Scrooge utterly believable when he is, at long last, redeemed.

Longe does need to slow down his delivery.  I lost some of his dialogue in Act I because he was speaking so quickly, though his speed was much more controlled in Act II.

David Krenkel was a wonderful surprise as he made his Playhouse debut as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s long-suffering clerk.  Krenkel was utterly natural as Cratchit.  He imbued a wonderful fatherliness and goodness into his role which had me believing him from start to finish.

I was underwhelmed by Don Keelan-White’s portrayal of Jacob Marley.  Keelan-White’s rushed line delivery resulted in the loss of character and made it feel like he was simply going through the motions.  Marley should exude a sense of otherworldliness and he seemed all too human to me.  Instead of speaking faster, Keelan-White just needs to close up the spaces between his words.  This will allow him to retain nuance without sacrificing pace.

Bridget Robbins strikes all the right notes as the Ghost of Christmas Present.  Ms Robbins found quite a few nice character moments in her role.  I was especially impressed with how her Spirit was concerned about Scrooge’s welfare, yet had no qualms about giving him a metaphorical shot to the mouth by using his own cruel words against him.

I am not quite certain what Michael Farrell was trying to accomplish with his interpretation of the Ghost of Christmas Present.  His phrasing was rather odd which made it difficult for me to understand what he was saying.  Farrell’s vocal quality also made it seem like he was trying to be jolly (which did come through) and magisterial (which did not quite hit the mark).

The ensemble was always engaged in the action, but there were several notable performances in smaller roles.  Don Harris impressed as Jake, especially in a scene where he tries to stand up to the usurious Scrooge before caving into him.  Emily Mokrycki is splendid as Mrs. Cratchit and strikes the perfect balance between love for her family and disdain for Scrooge.  Megan Friend excels with a sweet turn as Belle Fezziwig, the one-time fiancée of Scrooge, and a hilarious turn as the thieving Mrs. Dilber.

Jim Boggess and his orchestra add to the feeling of Christmas with bright and spritely renditions of Christmas carols.  Georgiann Regan’s costumes perfectly fit the Victorian tale.  Jim Othuse’s sets, lighting, and special effects are absolutely marvelous.

I understand that over 70% of the cast was appearing in this play for the first time.  That much new blood combined with opening night jitters may account for some of the bumps I saw tonight with diction, volume, and interpretation, especially in Act I.  The cast seemed to find their groove in Act II which is a good sign that they will reach their full potential for this 40th anniversary run.  All quibbles aside, I still consider this to be the best version of A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen at the Playhouse in the nearly 19 years I’ve lived in Omaha.  Even if you have seen the play before, I promise you surprises that will make it new all over again.

A Christmas Carol plays at the Omaha Playhouse through December 23.  Performances are Wednesdays at 7pm, Thurs-Sat at 7:30pm, and Sundays at 2pm and 6:30pm.  There are no performances on Nov 25 or 26, but two additional performances will be held on Dec 22 and 23 at 7:30pm.  Before Dec 15, tickets are $36 for adults and $25 for students.  Tickets for the Dec 15-23 performances are $40 for adults and $29 for students.  For reservations contact the OCP box office at 402-553-0800 or visit www.omahaplayhouse.com or www.TicketOmaha.com.  The Omaha Playhouse is located at 6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE.

Adult Auditions for A Christmas Carol at Omaha Playhouse

Adult Auditions for A Christmas Carol

Omaha Community Playhouse – enter through stage door on west side of building (6915 Cass St in Omaha, NE)
Adult Auditions: Monday, Sept. 21, 7 p.m., Monday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m.

Production dates: Nov. 20-Dec. 23, 2015
Rehearsal dates: October-November, 2015

Audition requirements: Those auditioning should bring a piece of music (16 bars) to sing at the audition. A piano accompanist will be available.

Show summary: It just isn’t Christmas without A Christmas Carol. Experience Omaha’s favorite holiday tradition as Ebenezer Scrooge takes us on a life-changing journey filled with beautiful costumes, exquisite music, perfectly crafted sets and special effects second to none.

Contact info: Jeannine Robertson – jrobertson@omahaplayhouse.com, (402) 553-4890, ext. 164

Director: Hilary Adams
Roles: All roles are open except Ebenezer Scrooge