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LALT presents 'A Christmas Carol' with two choruses

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By Ann Mauzy

Los Alamos Little Theatre's production of "A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley" is Israel Horovitz's lively adaptation of the Charles Dickens story, with a large cast and two choruses. In this production Scrooge, played by Grady Hughes, and his old partner Marley, played by Paul Lewis, maintain a running dialogue through the familiar scenes of Christmases past, present and future. Although much dialogue is taken directly from Dickens, in this version Marley also serves as the play's narrator.

This production goes beyond the Dickens' morality play to include music and dancing for the whole family to enjoy. The play's producer and LALT President Jennifer Wadsack said, "In addition to an adult and a children's choir, four looming ghosts, and the rest of the traditional Dickensian characters, we will have a live fiddler on stage and some rousing dance numbers." She added, "Horovitz actually does write that a fiddler comes on stage, and dancing ensues during the Fezziwig party scene of Scrooge's Christmas Past."

Chris Kelley chose this play for her directing debut at LALT because, as she said, "We haven't had 'A Christmas Carol' in Los Alamos in seven years. This is such a nice version, and I thought it would be lots of fun to do. 'Carol' seemed like a great way to get my feet wet at LALT."

Kelley added, "Directing is in my blood." She is the daughter of long-time Duane W. Smith Auditorium manager and former Olions sponsor Mary Ann Kelley. Kelley said her "Christmas Carol" cast members were chosen for their ability to show kindness, generosity, love or cruelty, as their parts demand. Her favorite scene is the one between young Scrooge and his fiance. "It evokes so much emotion, and I also love Scrooge's transformation. It's like watching a child on Christmas morning," she said.

She continued, "Telling a story that everyone knows and making it interesting is a challenge, and using a large cast to its fullest potential is difficult. In this production our choruses are very much a part of the performance. They are on stage, in costume, interacting with the actors and populating the streets of London."

Musical direction is by Sheila Schiferl. Although playwright Horovitz suggests choral music here and there in the play, none is specified. Schiferl and Kelley chose the carols, many of them familiar to modern audiences. Schiferl says, "We both wanted to keep this very Victorian. The novel came out in 1843, and the playwright emphasizes that keeping it period is very important. So, virtually all the music we used was published in the Victorian era or earlier, and it would have been known to Victorian carolers."

All the vocal music is a capella. Schiferl describes how the music fits the mood of the play. "The two pieces sung in the graveyard scene function like movie music: a Gregorian chant by the men (we tried it different ways and had the kids vote on which was creepier!), and a small part of the Faur Requiem, sung by the women, to suggest a hint of redemption," she said. "My favorite songs are the two old English processionals, and 'Dancing Day.' I'll also be playing some 'ghostly music' at appropriate times. Most of that will be improvised."

There are 55 cast members, including the choruses. Nine Los Alamos families have multiple cast members or singers onstage in this production.

Director Kelley said, "I feel that community theater is a family. It makes sense that often we have spouses, parents, and children in the same show. The cast and choruses of 'A Christmas Carol' are sharing this gift of their time and talents for other families in the community to enjoy."

Los Alamos Little Theatre, including choruses, presents "A Christmas Carol: Scrooge and Marley," at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, Dec. 7, 8, 14, and 15, and at 2 p.m. Sundays, Dec. 9 and 16. The play is suitable for all audiences.

Tickets (general admission $12/students and seniors $10) are available at CB Fox or at the door, 1670 Nectar St. For more information call 455-7467 or see www.lalt.org.