Entertainment, a bit of the Christmas spirit, a generous outlook — of all the elements theatregoers can take from Peter MacDonald Productions’ remount of “Scrooge,” actress Monika Behr hopes they leave the show with a new understanding about life.
“What I’d like for them to understand is that there’s always hope,” Behr said. “No matter how miserable a day is, when you wake up the next morning, it’s your choice how that day is going to be for you. Every day is a new start. What is in the past doesn’t matter — yes, it has an impact on the future, but it doesn’t determine it. That’s your choice.”
This is the second time Behr has performed in MacDonald’s stage adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” playing a street pedlar seriously indebted to the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge.
“She has borrowed from him in order to keep her family afloat, but unfortunately she’s falling behind and Scrooge doesn’t take that kindly,” Behr said of her character. “He’s a little like an old-fashioned loan shark; in other words, the interest just keeps rising and rising and rising and eventually there’s not going to be anything left for her to do but end up in the poorhouse or the workhouse, which are the two places that he loves to see people go.”
MacDonald has been remounting “Scrooge,” a musical, every second Christmas for more than 15 years, expanding the production each year. This year’s version includes more than 100 performers, with choruses for dancers, adults, teenagers and children, with music gathered from other productions of “A Christmas Carol,” including the Muppets version, as well as traditional holiday songs and music composed by MacDonald and his wife, Ronalda Hutton MacDonald, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present.
The production originally began as a way for MacDonald to get new performers on the main stage at the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre alongside those who were more experienced. Since then, it’s grown into a regular community theatre event.
MacDonald plays the part of Scrooge.
“It comes from inside me,” he said of his portrayal of the character. “I just see a man who’s laden down with burdens because of his troubles at Christmas. I have much sympathy for the guy.
“In real life, you see people like that all the time; people that are just in a grumpy mood because they have a not-so-pleasant life.”
MacDonald makes some changes to the script each year — sometimes receiving some flack for it — but he acknowledged some scenes are too important to mess with, like the Cratchit family scene, with the musical number, “Bless Us All.” He’ll often add new roles to incorporate a strong actor, or change details depending on who auditioned.
Angela Dawe, who plays what MacDonald calls a “rag picker,” a woman who goes through the garbage in search of things to sell, is performing in the production for the first time. A music teacher by day, Dawe had no acting experience until she auditioned for a role in MacDonald’s version of “Annie” last year and got the role of Miss Hannigan. Since then, she’s also performed in “Anything Goes.”
“The two characters actually lend to each other quite well,” she explained. “They both have spunk in their character and they each have their own set of issues, but they manage to persevere.”
“Scrooge” opens at the Arts and Culture Centre Friday evening and runs until Sunday evening, with a Sunday afternoon matinée. Tickets are $26 ($24 for seniors and students), and are available at the Arts and Culture Centre box office, by calling 729-3900, and online at www.artsandculturecentre.com.