John Peters has always had a passion for community theatre. He has been an active member in productions since 1984, when he staged shows in Florida. This year, however, will be his first time participating in one of the city’s most popular Christmas traditions — the staging of “A Christmas Carol.”
Peters felt this was the perfect time to join the area’s thriving troupe of thespians.
“The reason I chose this production is because ‘Christmas Carol’ is one of my favorite stories and such a wonderful tale of redemption. The thing I enjoy most about community theatre is we are all there because of our love for the theatre,” he said.
The group will be sharing that love at 8 p.m. Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday, as well as 8 p.m. Dec. 13, 14, 15 and at 3 p.m. Dec. 16 at the Historic Ritz Theatre in downtown Brunswick.
In addition to Peters, who portrays Bob Cratchit, former Brunswick mayor Bryan Thompson, will reprise his role as Ebenezer Scrooge. For Thompson, the role is always an exciting one.
But it is something he is particularly looking forward to sharing this year, as it will be a little different. For the past six years, the show was presented as a radio show, rather than a full stage production. It will return to the traditional format for this showing but it will feature a new script adapted by Michael Wilson, which focuses more on the spectral elements of the story.
“Scrooge is just a fun and fascinating character to play, especially during a full production,” Thompson said.
“This script is a new script, and it’s given me the opportunity to look at some other levels within Scrooge. The way the script we used for a number of years was written, I would start Scrooge off at a seven, then crank him up to a nine and ram him into an 11 at the end.”
The changes make for a latitude in acting choices, he notes.
“For this, it goes across the mat from a one to a two, you have more levels available to work with. It’s been very interesting for me and I think it will be very interesting for the audience, as well ” he said.
In addition to Thompson’s time-honored spot, the cast will also features more than 20 locals, many of whom are new, who have all been putting in hard work since October.
Heather Heath, show director and executive director of Golden Isles Arts and Humanities, (GIAH) expects the cast’s efforts to pay off.
“Everyone has really grown in their roles and are committed to bringing this story to life. And of course then there’s that guy who is playing Scrooge. He’s amazingly good,” said Heath, who is also married to Thompson,
She also feels the return to a more traditional format coupled with the new script will add something interesting for those who’ve attended year after year.
“We are returning to the fully staged production of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ We did the Ritz Radio Theatre versions of both it and ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ for seven years, and it seemed time to come back to the full show,” she said.
“We did 10 years of it prior to the radio shows — sometimes you need to take a break to bring a fresh take on it. We have a new script, that emphasizes much of the ghostly qualities of the story which makes it as one of our second graders said (Tuesday) after seeing the show ‘scary and funny and great.’”
The traditional tale penned by Charles Dickens was first published in December 1843. “A Christmas Carol” is the story of the miserable and miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who fails to show any regard for his fellow man. Following a spooky visit from his late business partner, Jacob Marley, Scrooge spends Christmas Eve enduring a series of visits from the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The goal of the ghosts is to make Scrooge change his selfish ways.
While Dickens set pen to paper more than 170 years ago, the message of joy, love and selflessness remains a relevant one.
“The message makes it relevant — Christmas is a time when ‘men and women seem to open their shut up hearts freely’ but what Scrooge learns and vows is that that feeling should be with us every day of the year, not only at Christmas time,” Heath said.
“And we love to see someone transformed — and Scrooge’s transformation is grounded in the facts of his past, his observations of the present and his realization of what might be the future if he doesn’t open himself to the world around him. And there’s another message — the giving of oneself brings the truest happiness.”
Advance tickets for GIAH members are $15 for adults and $10 for seniors. Nonmember tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors. Prices increase $5 the day of the show. Student’s tickets are always $5 but ID must be presented. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit goldenislesarts.org, call 912-262-6934 or drop in from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday to Friday at Ritz Theatre in downtown Brunswick.