A Christmas Carol Comes to Syracuse Stage

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By Craig Thornton

The beloved family classic returns to Central New York after a seven-year absence in an adaptation new to Syracuse audiences. A Christmas Carol follows the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s fateful Christmas Eve journey from an embittered, ungenerous creature into a giving, caring human being at the hands of four spirits who show him the true meaning of the holidays. Peter Amster—familiar to Syracuse Stage audiences for directing Moby Dick, Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, This Wonderful Life and The Fantasticks—directs a cast of 32 in this true-to-Dickens adaptation by celebrated playwright Romulus Linney. Sprinkled throughout the production are verses from traditional holiday carols, sung mostly a cappella or accompanied by fiddle, musically directed and arranged by Dianne Adams McDowell.

 A Christmas Carol performs November 23-December 29 in the Archbold Theatre at the Syracuse Stage/Drama Complex. It is recommended for all ages. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SyracuseStage.org, by phone at 315-443-3275, or in person at the Syracuse Stage Box Office at 820 East Genesee Street. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more at 315-443-9844.

 Patrons visiting Syracuse Stage this holiday season are asked to please bring a non-perishable food item for the pantry at Grace Episcopal Church. Suggested items: grits, pancake mix, dried beans (pinto, lima, great northern and black-eyed peas), canned vegetables (no salt added corn, green beans and peas) and spaghetti sauce.

 Pre-and post-show events during the run of A Christmas Carol include the Opening Night Party (November 29 with live holiday music by Jazz vocalist Nancy Kelly), an Actor Talkback (following the 7 p.m. show on December 1), Wednesday @ 1 Lecture (December 4, “Adapting Dickens: Scrooge from Page to Stage” with Miles Taylor, Associate Professor of English Le Moyne College),  Happy Hour (December 12 with half price drinks and complimentary snacks), and Prologues (moderated discussions with actors from the show on December 1, December 7, and December 26). Visit Syracuse Stage Events for more information.

 Additionally, in the Coyne Lobby patrons can enjoy an exhibit prepared by Onondaga Historical Association titled “1868 – The Year Charles Dickens Stopped in Syracuse.” This exhibit will tell of the time that Charles Dickens, himself, dramatically read excerpts from his original story of A Christmas Carol from the stage of Wieting Hall on Clinton Square.  It will also explore what Christmas was like in Syracuse in the year of 1868.

 A Christmas Carol, a co-production between Syracuse Stage and SU Drama, has 32 cast members comprised of professionals (which includes visiting actors and SU Drama professors), SU Drama undergraduate students, and children from the CNY area. The professional cast members include Steve Brady as Marley, Nick Corley as Crachit, Steve Hendrickson as Scrooge, Peter Van Wagner as Fezziwig, SU professors Leslie Noble as Mrs. Crachit and Celia Madeoy as Mrs. Fezziwig, and Joe Davoli as The Fiddler. Nineteen SU Drama students will portray other roles. Nine local children (left) complete the cast.

 Traditional Irish and English carols sprinkled throughout the production include verses of “The First Noel,” “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” and “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing,” along with less familiar though beautiful and sometimes haunting carols such as “The Wexford Carol,” “Sussex Carol,” and “In the Bleak of Midwinter.” Mostly sung a cappella with occasional accompaniment on fiddle or mandolin, Director Peter Amster describes the music as “multi-functional,” sometimes serving to underscoring or transition, and sometimes serving to evoke the inner thoughts of Scrooge or to help place the audience in Dickensian England.

 In the 150 years since A Christmas Carol was first published, it has been retold and adapted more often and in more ways than perhaps any other fictional work. Its story has been told as a ballet, opera, musical, film, television special, puppet show, orchestral work, and cartoon. “It is part Hamlet, in its devastating revelations by fantastic ghosts, part Everyman, in its sure progression toward spiritual salvation, and part Charlie Chaplin, in its fun and overflowing good spirits,” said playwright Romulus Linney.

 When Linney adapted the play in 1998, he was amazed not only at its beauty and durability, but its blazing theatricality. “I vowed to stick to the bones of the story as closely as I could to take the evolution of Scrooge seriously, and to try and find, as he goes, the child within him that slowly emerges from his ordeal to such bountiful happiness… Its story can fly on beautiful wings of elegant theatre, but move us just as deeply when done as simply, as cleanly and as forthrightly as the brilliant imagination of its creator, Charles Dickens.”

 A Christmas Carol is directed by Peter Amster with Dianne Adams McDowell as Musical Director/Director and Anthony Salatino as Choreographer. Designers of the production are Linda Buchanan (Scenic Designer), Tracy Dorman (Costume Designer), Thomas C. Hase (Lighting Designer), Victoria (toy) Deiorio (Sound Designer). The Production Stage Manager is Stuart Plymesser.

 

ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT:

The late Romulus Linney was the founding playwright of NYC’s Signature Theatre Company, which named a theatre in his honor. His many awards included two Obie Awards and three Drama-Logue Awards, and fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the National Endowment of the Arts. Film and TV actress Laura Linney is his daughter.

ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:

Peter Amster returns to Syracuse Stage, where he previously directed Moby Dick, The 39 Steps, This Wonderful Life, and The Fantasticks. His extensive regional theatre credits include nominations for Chicago’s Joseph Jefferson Award for his direction of Once on This Island, The World Goes Round, and The Rothschild’s at Apple Tree Theatre, and Pride and Prejudice at Northlight Theatre.

 

 

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steve said on Friday, Nov 22 at 12:36 AM

syracuse stage keep up the good work you do for the syracuse area

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Friday, July 25, 2014
, Watertown, NY

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