GLEN RIDGE, NJ — The Gas Lamp Players will be presenting, “A Christmas Carol,” with a cast of 105 adults, teenagers and children. According to its director, Kristy Graves, this production is the same as the one-act, Broadway musical version that had a running time of 90 minutes, but the Gas Lamp show will have an intermission. Graves said it is the first time the Players are doing a holiday-themed, mainstage show.
“We’ve been doing our shows in February,” she said in a recent telephone interview. “But working with schools and thinking about what’s best for the community, we thought to do a holiday show and ‘A Christmas Carol’ was at the top of the list.”
While acknowledging that the Dickens classic has a dark element, she said the Broadway musical version is a beautiful story with gorgeous music by Alan Menken. The lyricist is Lynn Ahrens with a book by Ahrens and Mike Ockrent. The show appeared annually at the Paramount Theatre, in Madison Square Garden, from 1994 to 2003.
“It’s moving and touching and will get everyone into a holiday spirit,” Graves said.
The character of Tiny Tim will be played by Gaby Slim and Austin Spencer. Both are from Glen Ridge and both, Graves says, will tug at the audience’s heart.
“And our Scrooge is unbelievable,” she said. “I had no idea what he’s capable of.”
Following in the steps of such notable musical Ebenezers as Tony Randall, Kelsey Grammer, and F. Murray Abraham will be Don Flynn, a Fairfield resident. Graves said Scrooge’s character resonates with his performance.
“And I’m in the show,” Graves said of an unexpected change, admitting she is “having a blast.”
Although a veteran director, Graves had never directed “A Christmas Carol.”
“The experience is very different,” she said. “Usually the leads have the most work to do. But in this show, the ensemble never leaves the stage with the leads popping in and out. It’s a huge commitment for the ensemble. They have so much to learn. I think we’ve gotten very close to each other. It’s been a bonding.”
With 105 in the cast, 60 are children with the roles of children. Adults and teens make up the balance with teenagers playing adult parts. A lot of the children have their parents in the show with them.
“I tried to put the kids and parents together,” Graves said, adding this helped with scheduling.
The show has plenty of children/angels to go around
“This is a much larger group than the children town folk,” she said. “The angels come on twice and then in the finale. For them, there’s not that much time commitment, but they will bring something special to the production.”
Graves gave special thanks to Lynn Oliver, who was responsible for costuming and either made or found the wardrobe.
“Costumes are a huge element,” Graves said.
Pictorial projections are used in the background and the suspension of disbelief for characters taking flight is creatively replaced by a passarel, which is a catwalk around the outside of an orchestra pit. In “A Christmas Carol,” Scrooge is taken on transformative journeys by Christmases Past, Present and Future.
“The projections are absolutely stunning,” Graves added. But most difficult for her as director has been the element of making the time travel of past, present and future Christmases seem magical, and trying to find a way to convey that magic — on a low budget — without looking “cheesy.” Graves thinks this show has made that accomplishment, but even at that, her favorite part of the show is tough to pick.
“It’s such an eclectic group,” she said. “Some of the actors are very talented and some are doing it to be with their children. There are novices and seasoned actors. It’s been challenging, but rewarding.”
Four performances of “A Christmas Carol: The Musical,” will be presented at Ridgewood Avenue School. Dates and times are Friday and Saturday, Dec 7 and 8, at 8 p.m.; and Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 8 and 9, at 2 p.m. A fee will be charged and a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
The production team includes assistant director Susan Knight Carlin; co-producers Meredith Eaton, Rennae Pelayo and Eileen Kelly. Musical director, Jess Glover; technical director, Cyndi Owgang; stage manager, Robert Lavagno; set designer, Alecia Hurst Walton; lighting designer, Nik Marmo; sound designer, Nick Von Hagel; and costume designer, Lynne Oliver. Choreographed by Jonathan Duvelson, Elisa Van Duyne and Conny Andres.