“A Christmas Carol” at Players Guild Theatre

For more than 30 years, the Players Guild Theatre has crafted a holiday tradition.

“A Christmas Carol” will return to the stage December 1-17. The Players Guild has mounted a production of the Charles Dickens tale for about 36 years. And for the last 10 years or so, the theater has performed an original musical production of the show.

“Obviously, this story has been popular with audiences around the country and around the globe for years. This is no exception,” said Joshua Erichsen, producing artistic director.

The Players Guild production features music by Steve Parsons and lyrics by John Popa. The musical was originally written in 1997, but has been tweaked and updated over the years, Erichsen said.

“Really … I think it’s a rival of any great Broadway musical in terms of composition,” he said. “And you have this great storyline of redemption. They’ve really enhanced that.”

The production stays true to the classic story of lonely miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve. But the adaption heightens the emotions of the tale by drawing parallels between Scrooge and his nephew Fred, Erichsen explained.

The show is a little spooky, a little fun and very Christmasy, he said.

Don Jones will reprise his role as Scrooge for an eighth season.

The show also stars Matthew Horning as Bob Cratchit, Desirée Hargrave as Elizabeth/Belle, Matthew Heppe as Fred/young Ebenezer and newcomer Ezra Bernstein as Tiny Tim.

The 35-member cast is a “great mix of returning faces and new faces,” Erichsen said.

“A Christmas Carol” is one of the theater’s most popular productions. It’s life-giving to see those crowds year after year, he said.

Erichsen isn’t surprised by the popularity.

For many families, including Erichsen’s, seeing “A Christmas Carol” is an annual tradition.

Audiences also are drawn to the message of the show.

“It’s that story of redemption and hope we’re all looking for during the holidays,” he said. “The idea that no matter what, there’s always the opportunity to change, do better and help your fellow mankind. It’s appealing and should be appealing.”

Even those who have enjoyed the show for decades should be ready for an exciting holiday experience.

“I hope audiences come in ready to be entertained and also moved by the show,” he said. “I think we’re always trying to throw in a few new surprises, whether it’s effects with the ghosts or something new to freshen up the show. I think they should expect to see something new each year.”

Theatergoers can enjoy an all-access experience Friday, December 8 at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $50 for the special event, which includes an evening performance, behind-the-scenes tour of the set, a costume retrospective and food and beverages in the greenroom before the show.
Tickets for a regular performance are $29 for adults, $22 for children (age 17 and younger) and $26 for seniors. To purchase tickets, visit playersguildtheatre.com or call 330-453-7617.

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Jessica Holbrook

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