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A Christmas Carol

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The enduring story of A Christmas Carol began as a novella by Englishman Charles Dickens. When it was initially penned in 1843, it was titled A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas. Over the centuries the tale has been told through various media, starting with print and including cinema, television, and stage. In fact, Dickens himself, starting in 1857, began performing the story publicly, and continued doing solo performances of it through 1868, making adjustments to his performance as he traveled from place to place and audience to audience. The Manchester Examiner once noted in a review of Dickens’s efforts, “There is always a freshness about what Mr. Dickens does — one reading is never...a mechanical following of the previous reading.”

The same may be said of one of the most venerable modern-day and memorable incarnations of A Christmas Carol; that is, the theatrical version being staged for the 39th year at Orange County's South Coast Rep. This SCR perennial has become a holiday ritual in The OC and for theatergoers from around So Cal. The marvelous  Hal Landon Jr. is still heading the cast as Ebenezer Scrooge—as he's done every season since SCR inaugurated this Yuletide tradition. This Christmas Carol is a show that doesn't grow old or lose its poignancy.

Still using the script adapted by Jerry Patch and under the stalwart direction of John-David Keller (who's been helming Carol since it first graced the SCR main stage in 1979), the themes and stagecraft have remained consistent in quality and audience satisfaction throughout the years. Thomas Buderwitz's scenic design and the late Richard Dwight Odle's costuming have been mainstays in this seasonal celebration. Donna and Tom Ruzika's affective lighting helps set the chilly scene, and Drew Dalzell's sound design echoes the cityscape of 19th century London.

What changes in this archetypal tale of redemption – Ebenezer Scrooge is a miserly misanthrope who rails at the notion Christmas, but is redeemed after visitations from four  ghosts – are certain members of the cast. Of course, the child actors (in over a dozen roles) are double cast. At the performance reviewed, Tiny Tim was sweetly played by Presley Coogan.

The ensemble of performers remains committed to conveying the story and all do so with freshness and élan. Daniel Blinkoff, for example, is in his fifteenth-year playing Bob Cratchit, and Jennifer Parsons is in her thirteenth-season as Mrs. Cratchit. Richard Doyle, a SCR founding artist does admirable duty as the spirit of Christmas Past for the thirty-third year The spirit of Christmas Present is again once embodied by Timothy Landfield. Kimberly Scott and Gregg Daniel are in the cast as Mrs. Fezziwig and Jacob Marley’s ghost, respectively. And Erika Schindele recreates her roles as a laundress, Belle, and a scavenger.

But it is Hal Landon Jr. who provides the center of gravity for this durable show. His physical fluidity, his clear enunciation, and his sheer endurance make him a living legend in the annals of the Southern California theater scene. What’s more, he doesn’t miss a beat or a hat trick in this latest staging (if you’ve seen the show you know what’s meant by “hat trick;” if not, see the show).

For those in the holiday spirit or for those wishing to get into the spirit, SCR’s A Christmas Carol is a perfect place to be and a fitting show to see.

A Christmas Carol continues through December 24. For ticket information and reservations, call (714)708-5500. For online ticketing and further information, visit www.scr.org.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.