Christmas musical opens this weekend

This article submitted by Michael Jacobson on 12/1/99.

Mr. and Mrs. Crachit A modern musical version of a timeless Christmas classic will be presented over the next two weekends at the stage in the Paynesville Elementary School.

The Paynesville Area High School Theater Department will perform "Scrooge," starting with an 8 p.m. performance on Friday night. Another performance will be given on Saturday night at 8 p.m.

The musical is based on "A Christmas Carol,"Ęthe famous Christmas play by Charles Dickens. It originally was a movie in the 1970s with Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Bob Marley. Erin Kehr, who is directing the local version, said it was unusual in that the movie was then turned into a Broadway musical. Far more common are Broadway musicals that are later turned into movies.

The musical was written by Leslie Bricusse, an Oscar and Grammy winning British composer. He got his performing, directing, and writing start while studying at Cambridge. He has written more than 40 musicals and films. His musicals include "Goodbye Mr. Chips," "Henry's Wives," and "Victor/Victoria."

He has written songs for movies like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," "Superman," "Home Alone," and "The Pink Panther." His songs include "Once in a Lifetime," "You and I," "Goldfinger," and "The Candy Man." Sammy Davis Jr. recorded more than 60 Bricusse songs.

Pictured at left: Mrs. Crachit (Allison Thompson) gets the attention of her husband, Bob Crachit (Ryan Lang), during a rehearsal for "Scrooge" last week.

Ken Vork, musical director for the PAHS production, said people might recognize two songs from "Scrooge." The songs "Thank You Very Much" and "Father Christmas" have been performed at elementary music concerts, he said.

Vork also spoke highly of a trio, called "Happiness," featuring a young Ebeneezer Scrooge, an old Scrooge, and the fiance of the young Scrooge. "It's not one that I knew before, but it's really gorgeous," Vork said.

Kehr agreed, saying, "The music is wonderful. People will love it."

The cast for the play includes 22 members. Half are from the high school, with the other half split between the middle and elementary schools.

Kehr said the musical, with a message of generosity, is perfect for Christmas and for preceding the referendum vote on a new school auditorium. According to Kehr, the play showcases the local talent, especially Scott Ingalsbe as Scrooge, but the production is hampered due to technical difficulties.

The elementary school was very accommodating in allowing the use of its stage for two weeks, according to Kehr. Normally, it is used as a classroom, but it will be used exclusively as a stage for two weeks. Rehearsals and preparations were made this week, and next week the sets and equipment will be stored there until the final performances on Dec. 11.

Kehr said the small budget for the musical went for lights and sound. So instead of period costumes, the musical will be set in the present day. Instead of live music, the musical will used computer-generated accompaniment.

Kehr, who works in theater professionally in St. Cloud, borrowed props and from the theaters at which he works. "This is really being pulled off through generosity," he said.

In lieu of live music--which Vork said was difficult to organize on a volunteer basis due to the caliber of playing required--the musical will use computer-generated music. This type of accompaniment was used last spring for "The Wizard of Oz."

Vork has entered the music on a computer program that will play it using a tone generator. Programming each note is rather intensive. For each minute of music, it takes Vork over an hour to program each part into the computer. He estimated that he has spent 150 hours programming music for the musical.

Some parts will be played on an instrument and recorded on analog. Then they will be transferred to digital signals and added to the computer program.

Vork said the songs in the musical aren't the most well-known Broadway numbers but he added, "It's pretty easy on the ears to listen to. It's accessible."

"All the main characters will have at least a small solo,"Ęsaid Vork. "Of course, Scrooge has a lot of solos."

"All these kids have really done an amazing job," added Kehr. With practices at night, everyone puts in a full day at work or at school before arriving. Kehr, who has two other plays opening this week, said the local practices have been energetic and fun. "When the cast is enjoying themselves, the audience does as well," said Kehr.

"I can't wait to see them perform it for people, because they're going to love it," he added.

The musical features flashbacks, like in "A Christmas Carol." Because the setting will be in present-day America, rather than Victorian England, the flashbacks will occur in the 1950s, the 1960s, and the 1970s.

The performances will be split over two weekends. It will be shown at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday of this week. Then, next Saturday, Dec. 11, it will be performed at 3 p.m. and again at 8 p.m. Vork said that a two weekend show was the proper showing for a dramatical performance, allowing word of mouth to generate interest between performances.

During the holiday season, Kehr added, people have lots of commitments. "So many people miss out if you do it over one weekend," he said.

Both Vork and Kehr urged the public to come and see the musical. "I think they really will enjoy themselves," said Kehr. "The fun these kids are having is infectious."

Tickets cost $3 for adults and $1 for students.

Scrooge: Scott Ingalsbe
Tiny Tim: Dugan Flanders
Bob Cratchit: Ryan Lang
Mrs. Crachit, Mrs. Fezziwig: Allison Thompson
Isabel: Becca Gardner
Harry: Tony Thielen
Ghost of Christmas Past: Trista Dukowitz
Marley: Ryan Flanders
Ghost of Christmas Present: Cody Wiig
Fezziwig: Mark Braun
Scrooge as a young man, Butcher: Joe Halvorson
Scrooge as a boy, Tom Jenkins: Adam Ingalsbe
Ghost of Christmas Yet-to-Come, Dick Wilkins: Andrew Jones
Street urchin: Lauren Vaske
Kathy Crachit: Rheanne Zimmerman
Peter Crachit: Troy Gerding
Martha Crachit: Ginelle Zimmerman
Bess: Courtney Colbert
Merchant, Boy: Matthew Larson
Helen: Sami Tierney
Beggar woman: Emily Mehr
Mrs. Pringle: Lindsey Pelton

Stage manager: Anne Janotta
Director: Erin Kehr
Musical director: Ken Vork

Return to Archives