Scrooge with a twist
A soothing voice cuts through the falling snow, which lightly blankets a city street. The signs of an approaching holiday are in view. Nevada Performing Arts’ Christmas Carol begins.
More than 125 cast members, including local high school choirs, appear on stage. The play follows the traditional story of Scrooge, but many unexpected, unique and entertaining extras are added to the performance, including Victorian ballerinas, polka numbers and swing dances.
“We change and update the show each year, make it more interesting,” says John Robert Beardsley, an international actor and director, living in Reno, who plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
Lesley Anne Bandy, responsible for the adaptation, choreography and direction of the show, expanded on the traditional story line with imagination and expertise.
As we expect, three spirits visit Scrooge on Christmas Eve and help him change his selfish life into an existence of giving and care. The difference in NPA’s production lies, in part, in the spirits’ personalities, which have all been masterfully tweaked.
The first spirit, Christmas Past, is followed by little elves (played by children as young as five) as she dances around the stage in an elaborate and gorgeous handmade costume. The elves mimic her every move as Scrooge watches, bewildered, from his bed.
Christmas Present, of course, is the jollier second spirit to visit Scrooge in the twilight.
“He is jazzy and hip,” says Bandy.
Accompanying Present are Mrs. Christmas Present and more children cast members who surround the spirit as he spins his bass and sings a Louis Armstrong piece. The entourage playfully joins along at the end of the set with a rocking “Yeah.”
The glimpse of Scrooge’s past fast-forwards to the present as Belle, Scrooge’s first love lost, is seen with her husband and children. Beardsley’s emotions as Scrooge are intense; thanks to his rich baritone, every “bah humbug” is convincing. He is also playful and comical, dancing and becoming entangled in each scene he visits.
“All the Scrooge stuff will be different this year,” Beardsley says.
Although the play opens with traditional Christmas carols, three new songs written by Will Rose debut in this year’s performance.
The second half of the musical is laced with melancholy as Scrooge glances his life-to-come and the sad fate of the Cratchit family. As Scrooge looks into the bleak future, cast members belt out Pink Floyd’s classic “Money.”
“The song is surprising in this section,” says Bandy.
As the scene ends, Scrooge realizes the necessity of heeding the words of his late partner Jacob Marley (Fred Aselmore), who warned that a life ruled by greed would lead to “A Soul Who Did Nothing.” (Marley sang this song in the first act.)
Brad D. Martin plays the hardworking Bob Cratchit. The innocent voice of his son Tiny Tim can be heard at the closing of the show as snow once again falls on the scene. The message is still the same: It’s never too late to change. The play is a perfect addition on your holiday to-do list.
“It tells a story, it is a celebration or experience," says Beardsley. "The play is super for kids. There is a lot of eye candy for them: Christmas lights and snow."