Theatrical Traditions of Christmas ~ by Carol Glover

Everywhere in Chesapeake Country families are preparing for the holidays: climbing into attics, dusting off ornaments, replacing light bulbs and lovingly unwrapping the family heirlooms. Newly found treasures are added to the old: a scented candle, a wood-carved Santa or a cascade of twinkling lights.

Everywhere in Chesapeake Country, theater families are preparing for their holiday shows, dusting off traditional holiday scripts, shaking out costumes, lovingly unwrapping the heirlooms that bring their audiences back year after year and adding new players.

One of the joys of the holiday theater season is visiting the same company year after year to anticipate the old touches and welcome the new.

Three local theater companies - Colonial Players, The Pasadena Theatre Company and Chesapeake Music Hall - have not disappointed us. They've dusted off their heirloom shows to keep holiday theater traditions alive.

A Christmas Carol performed at Colonial Players and Chesapeake Music Hall transports us to the streets of Victorian London and into the bedroom of mean-spirited Ebenezer Scrooge. In this well-known Charles Dickens' story, visiting spirits take Scrooge into his past, present and future, changing his life and opening his heart to generosity of spirit and the willingness to share his wealth with others.

Meanwhile, The Pasadena Theatre Company's It's A Wonderful Life transports us to the small town of Bedford Falls in upstate New York. Here an angel instead of a spirit helps a troubled George Bailey fight despair and appreciate life.


Chesapeake Music Hall

Doug Yetter's music and Michael Hulett's lyrics are the highlight of this Christmas Carol. The songs set the scenes and move the story along as Scrooge (Tom Quimby), visited by the three ghosts - Christmas Past (Sue Bell), Present (David B. Reynolds) and Future (Ericka Butler) - reflects on his past and redeems his future.

The Music Hall cast harmonizes through the songs, which begin with caroler Sue Bell's clear voice singing traditional Christmas carols.

"Link by Link" is performed by the ghost of Jacob Marley (David B. Reynolds), Scrooge's long-dead partner. Marley and the lithe, dark spirits terrify Scrooge but enchant us. Reynolds' Marley, has appeared on roller skates for the last few years. We wait laughing hilariously, hoping to see a spill.

"Take My Heart" is Belle's (Danielle Treuberg) way to break her engagement with young Scrooge. Treuberg is a new addition. She has a lovely voice, poignant, strong and full of emotion.

"Yes or No" is a guessing game that Scrooge's nephew Fred (Alan Hoffman) invents. Hoffman's strong voice and cheery attitude are a direct contrast to his uncle.

The cast of this year's show is a mix of new and old faces. Tiny Tim is played by a first-grade girl Brynn Williams in the second year a girl has won the role. Williams calls out her lines forcefully and clearly, remembers the words to the songs and is a general delight.

Tom Quimby reprises his 1998 role as Scrooge. Forceful and emphatic hissing "Bah Humbug" with every breath, Quimby uses his face to express his emotions: regret as he views his past and watches himself grow into a man who loves money more than his beloved; delight and anticipation as he observes his nephew playing holiday games; dread as he realizes that he can change the future of the crippled Tiny Tim. Quimby's Scrooge is unforgettable.

Music by Doug Yetter, lyrics by Michael Hulett. Directed, produced, choreographed by Sherry Kay. Musical direction by Anita O'Connor. Musical production John Starr and Doug Yetter. Set design and construction Karel Richardson and Sherry Kay. Lighting design by Garrett R. Hyde. Sound technicians Folger Ridout and Garrett R. Hyde.

Playing at 339 Busch's Frontage Rd. & Rt. 50 Annapolis. Through Dec. 26. Doors open 2 hrs. before showtime; buffet opens 1.5 hrs. before. 8:30pm F; 8pm ThSa; 2:30pm Su; 1pm W @ Chesapeake Music Hall, 339 Busch's Frontage Rd., Annapolis. $28.50-$31.50; rsvp early: 800/406-0306.


Colonial Players

A Christmas Carol at Colonial Players actually started on Nov. 20, when those in the know arrived at the theater and lined up for their $5 tickets.

This show has become a tradition to both its audience and its players. Generations of company members make the show part of their own annual family celebration. Richard Wade's book and lyrics and Richard Gessner's music have thrilled area audiences since 1980. Many cast members have appeared year after year, sometimes in the same part, sometimes cloaked in a different costume. Ed Wintermute, this year's Ghost of Christmas Present, is the only player left from that original performance 19 years ago.

Also part of the tradition is David Harper, celebrating 10 years as Scrooge. He wears his signature red longjohns and plays the Victorian skinflint as a robust and aggressive curmudgeon. It's the highlight of the show when he changes from skinflint to generous benefactor. As Harper sings "Keeping Christmas," his eyes twinkle and he plucks a very surprised little girl from her seat and dances her around the stage. He glides, leaps and prances. It's a wonderful moment. Harper's daughters Lindsey and Tori are veterans of the show too, both having performed as Tiny Tim.

The appeal of this show lies in its Scrooge, its bright-eyed young audience and its large cast of local youngsters. There are probably as many young people on stage as in the audience. The audience keeps the tradition of dressing their kids, shining with excitement, in holiday finery.

The company's tradition continues at show's end when they form a receiving line, shaking hands, wishing happy holidays and bestowing candy canes.

Written by Richard Wade. Music by Dick Gessner. Directed by Joe Thompson. Music director Mark Hildebrand. Choreographers Jane Karsten & Lori Berdeguez. Set design/construction Jim Robinson. Lighting design Harvey Hack. Sound design M. Kelly Bustard.

Don't give up; try for stand-by tickets an hour before curtain rises. Playing Dec. 9-12 at 8pm Th, 7 & 9pm F; 2,4 & 8pm Sa; and 2 & 4pm Su on State Circle, Annapolis. $5: 410/268-7373.


Pasadena Theatre Company

Pasadena Theatre Company's three-year tradition of performing It's a Wonderful Life filled Humanities Hall with an audience of youth, teens and older folks. This company has the most eclectic audience in the area.

George Bailey (Keith Porter) is the hero in this story. Like Scrooge, he returns to his past in the company of a spirit, Angel Clarence (Marty Hayes). George is standing on a bridge Christmas Eve contemplating suicide. He's in trouble at his bank because his Uncle Billy (Keith Thompson) has lost $8,000. He's worth more dead than alive.

Clarence, who hasn't won his angel's wings in 200 heaven-years, can still earn them by persuading George that life is the ultimate gift. To make his point, he shows George what life would have been like if he'd hadn't been born. The story is told in short vignettes.

The combination of new and returning thespians, some in the same roles and others trying new, put on a show that's smooth and full of joy.

Hayes repeats his Angel's role from last year as does Keith Thompson his Uncle Billy, the absent-minded and alcoholic but lovable cause of George's troubles.

Chuck Dick plays Henry F. Potter for the third season. Dick's portrayal of the rival banker is right on the money. He's blustery, bombastic, sleazy and manipulative.

Stephanie Nevin returns again this year, bringing a young fresh look to the role of Mary Hatch, who marries George.

Doug Kotula, who directed 1997's production of It's A Wonderful Life, performs in front of the lights as George's hero brother Harry.

Pasadena's main addition this season is Keith Porter as George Bailey. Porter is the perfect George in looks and mannerisms. Amiable and low-key, he becomes loud and assertive when his principles are threatened. The pairing with Nevin produces a Father-Knows-Best kind of chemistry.

The other interesting addition this year is Brianne Cobuzzi as Violet, the town flirt. Cobuzzi is beautiful to look at with acting talent to match. Quite an accomplishment for a high school junior.

The evening ends with all well in Bedford Falls. As the audience exits, Pasadena's cast greets them in the lobby with Christmas cookies, hot cider and holiday wishes.

| Issue 49 |

Volume VII Number 49
December 9-15, 1999
New Bay Times

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