© Joe Gibbons/The Telegram
Ronalda Hutton and Peter MacDonald rehearse a scene from Scrooge at the Arts & Culture Centre in St. John's Monday night.
There’s a little bit of The Muppets, Donald Duck, Bill Murray and Jim Carey in Peter MacDonald Productions’ stage version of “Scrooge.”
MacDonald said he’s seen every screen version of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novel “A Christmas Carol,” and was inspired by each of them to create his own interpretation.
“People do different spins on the same story, but it’s surprising how similar they all are in terms of the lines, which are often taken right out of the book,” MacDonald said.
Hitting the stage in St. John’s for the seventh time, “Scrooged” is
the classic tale of miserable old banker Ebenezer Scrooge, whose tight-fisted ways and hatred for Christmas leads him to be visited by three ghosts: one of Christmas past, one of Christmas present and one of Christmas future.
This year’s production is different than any in years past, MacDonald explained. There are changes to the sets, music, characters and script.
“We dig more into the characters of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but we keep their essence,” MacDonald said. “Jacob Marley, in our production, was not represented as a young man before, but now we do a little bit of a scene with him and Scrooge getting together. That hasn’t been explored before.”
In the cast of 85 — narrowed down from about 450 potential actors that attended the open casting call for the show — there are actually four people playing Scrooge, each in a different stage of his life. The youngest Scrooge is played by Aiden Drover-Mattinen, teenage Scrooge is Keith Roberts, Scrooge as a young man is Jesse Boland, and MacDonald, fresh from his role as Edna Turnblad in his recent production of ”Hairspray,” plays the oldest Scrooge.
“In ‘Hairspray’ I was running around in a dress, and I didn’t want everyone to see me as the man in the dress, so I said, ‘Ok, I’ll do Scrooge,’” MacDonald said with a chuckle. “We really didn’t have anybody audition who was right for the part, but I certainly would have stood back if we did.”
Unlike “Hairspray,” for which MacDonald hired professional actors, flying some of them to town from Toronto, the cast of “Scrooge” is all local and features all levels of acting, from inexperienced performers to those who plan to make acting their career.
“(The show) started off as a teaching tool. It gives people the chance to perform who are maybe not the more experienced people around. It’s a nice opportunity for us to go back to where we started and give people an opportunity to grow,” MacDonald said.
Roberts is no stranger to local theatre, having most recently played the role of Frederick Von Trapp in the Quidi Vidi Rennies River Foundation and St. John’s Rotary production of “The Sound of Music.” He was in “Scrooge” in 2003, at the age of 12, as a member of the chorus.
“I wasn’t originally supposed to do it because of conflicting schedules with ‘The Sound of Music,’ but they found a way for me to be in it, and it’s great and I’m very thankful,” Roberts told The Telegram. “It’s such a good Christmas show about family and the meaning of Christmas.”
The production is a musical revue, with the music collected from other “A Christmas Carol” productions, including The Muppets’ version, traditional holiday songs, and original songs composed by MacDonald and his wife, Ronalda Hutton MacDonald, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present.
Also featuring Timothy Foote as Bob Cratchit, Nicolas Keough as Tiny Tim and Ellen Maher as the narrator, “Scrooge” will run at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre Thursday until Saturday.