‘The Last Christmas Carol’
As chilly November days give way to festive December ones, Northwestern Lehigh High School joins in celebrating the holiday season with a play called, “The Last Christmas Carol,” which premieres Nov. 29 and runs through Dec. 1.
If the title seems familiar, it is certainly deliberate.
“This is a play about an uninspired director of children’s theater doing an umpteenth production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ losing vision, patience and creativity in the process,” Director Bill Mutimer explained.
The play offers many parallels to the Charles Dickens’ classic.
Porter Lilley and Molly McGorry alternate in playing Brodwyn Branson, the Scrooge-like director of a local children’s theater who is merely going through the motions.
Some of the funniest lines in the play are delivered by McGorry who is rather acerbic in her role. She is also a pessimistic realist.
“The Christmas production is our cash cow,” said McGorry as her character, who is barely interested in the cast she is charged with directing. “What’s expected of them is they sell many tickets.”
Branson is visited by three spirits: a former agent, an acid-tongued drama critic played by Alex Madeira, and the Blue Elvis, played by Harrison Bernhard.
This results in a play within a play structure.
The visits force Branson to come to terms with her disillusioned life as she is ultimately transformed when she realizes Charles Dickens was right in delivering his hopeful story.
Despite everything, the kids pull the show together in the nick of time.
“With this journey, they come to realize what they lost sight of and the reason they wanted to do children’s theater in the first place — to inspire and help cultivate the children’s talents,” Mutimer said. “And, we realize at the end this will not be the last Christmas Carol.”
Sarah Danner read the Dickens’ classic in preparation for her role as Mrs. Cratchit.
“Obviously, it’s a classic but, as an actress, I like that ‘Christmas Carol’ can be adapted in various ways,” Danner said. “You can make it your own.”
“Since it sticks to the structure of a play everyone knows, I think everyone will just enjoy this play.”
“The Last Christmas Carol” has been described as half “Kiss Me, Kate” and half “Bad News Bears,” but with a modern approach to the stingy Scrooge.
The antics would amount to little if Tiny Tim did not make his requisite appearance.
Lauren Gruen was surprised when she received the role of Tiny Tim.
“Truth be told, I didn’t think I’d get a significant part at all,” she said. “Getting the role, proved I really do have a baby face.
“It’s kind of funny getting a young kid’s part.”
Gruen said her character outside the play is Barbra Spanew, who has never been in a play.
“She’s very sincere and excited, and incredibly excited to play Tiny Tim, so on opening night she kind of freaks out,” Gruen said.
This is the first time that Andrea Danic will appear on an American stage.
The exchange student from Croatia said being in the play was a way to meet more people.
“I definitely wanted to challenge myself since English is not my first language” she said. “I wanted to see if I could do it.
“I love it. It’s so amazing. We’re all the same and we all are treated the same.
When I tried out, I apologized to Bill [Mutimer] but he said ‘no worries’ and really helped me.
Other members of the cast include Matthew Lucarelli as Scrooge, Ronald Coufer as Bob Cratchit, Emma Burton as Max Plimsoll, Branson’s assistant director; Savanah Madeira as the critic, and Spencer Beidler as the Newsie.
“The Last Christmas Carol” will be presented 7 p.m. Nov. 29 and 30; and Dec. 1 in the Northwestern Lehigh High School auditorium.
All tickets are general admission and will be on sale starting 6 p.m. each night.