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Re-imagining a tradition

  • John D. Conlon, as Ebenezer Scrooge, rehearses a scene from “A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story” last week. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • John D. Conlon, as Ebenezer Scrooge, rehearses a scene from “A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story” last week, before the cast moved into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place Friday to Sunday. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • John D. Conlon (left), as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Ray Dudley, as the ghost of Jacob Marley, rehearse a scene from "A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story" last week, Nov. 14, 2017, before the cast moved into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place November 24-26. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • John D. Conlon (bottom), as Ebenezer Scrooge, and Ray Dudley, as the ghost of Jacob Marley, rehearse a scene from "A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story" last week, Nov. 14, 2017, before the cast moved into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place November 24-26. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Ray Dudley, as the ghost of Jacob Marley, rehearses a scene from "A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story" last week, Nov. 14, 2017, before the cast moved into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place November 24-26. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Michael Pantanella (center), as Bob Cratchit, carries Allen AJ Soares, as Tiny Tim, during a scene with the Cratchit family from “A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story,” before the cast moved into the Concord City Auditorium. Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Michael Pantanella, as Bob Cratchit, carries Allen AJ Soares, as Tiny Tim, while rehearsing a scene from “A Christmas Carol.” Elizabeth Frantz / Monitor staff

  • Paul Gauthier-Zayas (left to right) as Mr. Fezziwig, Ezra J. T-Alves as Fred, Debra Buckley as Mrs. Dilber, Catherine Cormier Martinez as Ida, Caity Jeanne Glover as Mrs. Root, and Cheri Birch as the Fortune Teller rehearse a scene from "A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story" last week, Nov. 14, 2017, before moving into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place November 24-26. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff

  • Actors, singers, and dancers, including Ryleigh O’Keefe (center) rehearse a scene from "A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story" last week, Nov. 14, 2017, before moving into The Concord City Auditorium where performances will take place November 24-26. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff) Elizabeth Frantz—Monitor staff



Monitor staff
Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What was dead will reawaken Friday at the Concord City Auditorium.

After years with the theater dark the days after Thanksgiving, a collaboration of performing art groups hope to bring back a tradition to open the Christmas season.

The Concord Community Concert Association and the N.H. Theatre Factory will perform a retelling of Charles Dickens’s classic story in A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story, a show they hope to bring back annually at the Audi.

‘Christmas Carol’ with a twist

The musical is an adaptation by Joel Mercier with original compositions.

Mercier said he began the retelling of A Christmas Carol during his college years. At the time, he was looking for a story that was already written to which he could add music; many musical versions of the show are just a play with traditional Christmas carols tossed in.

“I love the story of A Christmas Carol,” Mercier said.

But, he graduated from college in 2006 with it just 90 percent done. Then shelved it for a while, unfinished.

He lived in New York, and in late 2007, moved back to New Hampshire just as the Christmas season approached. It was then, he dusted it off and set to work.

He finished and tested it with a staged reading at the Stockbridge Theater at Pinkerton in Derry, his former high school. A fully-staged version premiered at the Audi in 2010 with a performance by the Community Players of Concord and has undergone several revisions since then.

The Musical Ghost Story is a darker, but still family-friendly, retelling of Dickens’s story. Mercier said he wants the audience feel a wide range of emotions watching the show.

In a Wizard of Oz-like fashion, characters from Scrooge’s present appear in his visions.

Among the multiple actors who portray dual roles, Ray Dudley plays both Jacob Marley and Mr. Barkby. Ellen Burger is Margaret Wilson and the Ghost of Christmas Past. Caity Jeanne Glover plays Mrs. Root and the Ghost of Christmas Present. Cheri Birch plays the Fortune Teller and the Ghost of Christmas Future.

John Conlon stars as Ebenezer Scrooge.

Mercier said he hopes the audience will think: “Wow, I’ve never quite seen it done like this.” And he said he thinks diehard Dickens’ fans also will be satisfied with the result.

Partnering up

Mercier first began working with the Concord Community Concert Association two-and-a-half years ago.

The N.H. Theatre Factory was producing Amadeus, a musical about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The association was planning a Mozart festival and wanted the Theatre Factory to remount the show for the weekend.

It was a success, and the groups began to look for another way to collaborate.

For years, the Community Players held a musical the week of Thanksgiving, which was a tradition for many families. But, due to scheduling conflicts and actors’ desire to spend the holiday with family, it moved the fall musical earlier in November. Since then, the Audi hasn’t been open the weekend following Thanksgiving.

A Christmas Carol hopes to break that pattern.

N.H. Theatre Factory and the Concord Community Concert Association want to bring a show back as an annual event within the city and get more community groups involved. 

“Wouldn’t that be amazing?” Mercier said.

This year, the Suncook Valley Chorale and Concord Coachmen Chorus will carol 30 minutes before the shows. Santa will attend for pictures before the start and at intermission. There also will be a collection of non-perishable food items for the Capital Region food basket program.

Shows will be Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $20 or $15 for children and are on sale now. For more information, visit concordcommunityconcerts.org or nhtheatrefactory.org.

Keep on caroling

If you can’t make the show at the Audi, you have plenty of other chances to enjoy Dickens’s tale.

Joel Mercier has composed a second variation of A Christmas Carol, commissioned by the Palace Theater in Manchester. This version is more lively and lighthearted. (He describes his Musical Ghost Story variation like Tim Burton, and Palace’s version is like Disney.)

Daytime television star, Charles Shaughnessy, will star as Scrooge. More than 140 youth actors appear in the performances, including five from Pembroke – Rylee Landry, Maggie Lamy, Felicia Brooks, Ava Tyler and Emelia Tyler – and four from Weare – Summer Giroux, Victoria Drake, Abigail Burke and Lydia Richman.

Performances run Dec. 1 to 23 with showtimes Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30, Saturday matinees at 2 p.m. and Sundays at noon and 5 p.m. There will also be a show Dec. 20 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 for children and $39 to $46 for adults. For more information, visit palacetheatre.org.

At the Hatbox Theatre, you’ll have three weekends to view another version of A Christmas Carol adapted by Jill Pinard. The adaptation takes note of the line asking if the Scrooge’s visions are merely “an undigested bit of beef” or reality and the dream-like qualities of being haunted by ghosts.

Shows run Dec. 1 to 17 on Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 general admission, $14 for members, seniors and students and $15 for senior members. For more information, visit hatboxnh.com.

Gerald Dickens, the great-great-grandson of Charles Dickens, will perform the play in a one-man show at Nashua Community College on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. Gerald has created different postures and voices for each of the 26 characters. Tickets to the show are $25 or $35 and available at fortingage.com. There will be a collection of unwrapped toys for the Salvation Army and The Front Door Agency.