Ms. Scrooge to you 

It wouldn’t be Christmas without Charles Dickens. The Cultural Arts Theatre will bring a dazzling musical production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol to life with five performances at Trustees Theater.

Director D.J. Queenan certainly is enthusiastic about the production.

“It is a very lyrical style of Broadway-type music,” he says. “It is very much infused with the Christmas spirit.”

The original Christmas Carol can be quite daunting, but not so the musical version. “It is fun,” Queenan says. “It is not dark and dismal.

“You see change and redemption,” he says. “There is a change of heart (on Scrooge’s part) making a change of life.”

For anyone who may not know the story, Ebenezer Scrooge is a miser who makes himself and everyone around him miserable, particularly his hard-working clerk, Bob Cratchit.

Scrooge especially hates Christmas, saying, “Bah, humbug!” to show his distaste. Then on one memorable Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former partner, Jacob Marley, who died seven years ago.

In an attempt to salvage his own soul, Marley tried to save Scrooge’s. He tells Scrooge he will be visited by three ghosts -- the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.

The first ghost shows Scrooge his own sad past and shows him when he started going wrong. The second ghost shows him what others think of him -- which isn’t much.

The final ghost shows Scrooge what will happen at his death. No one will grieve, in fact, everyone will be glad to see him go.

Transformed by the experience, Scrooge sends a Christmas turkey to Bob Cratchit and his family. He also visits his nephew, whom he formerly ignored.

Showing that his transformation is complete, Scrooge raises Cratchit’s salary and begins assisting his family, especially the crippled son, Tiny Tim.

The music for this version of A Christmas Carol was composed by Michel Legrand, who has received several Academy Awards. Sheldon Harnick, who has won the Tony Award and the Pulitzer Prize, created the lyrics.

“I was very surprised by how much the lyrics and dialogue are taken verbatim from the original book,” Queenan says. “This is definitely a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens.”

The production features a cast of 50 performers, ranging in age from 6 to 65. “The cast is stunning,” Queenan says. “It is an ensemble of incredibly gifted singers.

“There are many character parts, lots of small parts,” he says. “It allows us to showcase the many talented actors we have here in Savannah.”

Scrooge is played by Renee DeRossett. She was chosen for her broad sense of humor and her sense of comedic timing.

“We have a woman playing Scrooge,” Queenan says. “I was looking for a character actor and she was the one who walked through the door.”

DeRossett plays Scrooge no differently than a man would, Queenan says. “What a character actor really means is someone who doesn’t have to play according to type,” he says. “They can play whatever part they want to become.”

There is an added treat for audiences. Each performance will be preceded by a short concert.

“Each night, a half hour before the performance, a different local school choir will sing selections from their Christmas concerts,” Queenan says. “The idea behind that is to showcase more of our area students at the Trustees Theater and to expose the students to theater.”

In addition to Queenan, there is Musical Director Keena Charbonneau, Choreographer Karen Burns, Lighting Designer Sasha Travis, Sound Designer Christopher Soucy and Stage Manager Jin Hi Rand.

“The costumes are being done by Sarah Collins, who has worked with us in the past,” Queenan says. “Now, she is a teacher at SCAD Atlanta.”

DeRossett almost didn’t try out for the production, until a friend told her Queenan was anxious for her to come and audition. “I wasn’t really going to the auditions because there are not a lot of female parts in A Christmas Carol,” she says.

“I went and D.J. started reading me for Scrooge,” DeRossett says. “He had me read again and again.”

Puzzled, DeRossett asked to read for another part. “I said I’d like to read one of the ghosts or Marley,” she says.

But it was not to be. “As soon as I started reading Scrooge, this character came together, up and out of me,” DeRossett says. This old man was inside me, I guess.”

Although the part seemed made for her, DeRossett still needed convincing. “I asked D.J., ‘How do you think Savannah will feel about this?’” she says. “He said, “Well, if they have problems going into it, they won’t when they leave.’”

DeRossett has a fondness for Dickens that might be etched in her genes. “My favorite movie is Albert Finney as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol,” she says. “I watch it every year. I’m actually related to Dickens on my mother’s side,” DeRossett says.

Playing the part of Scrooge gives DeRossett a rare opportunity to spotlight her singing voice. “I’m a second alto,” she says. “I’ve always been in the chorus. Let’s face it, I’m not going to play Nellie Forbush (of South Pacific). Parts for a second alto are very rare.”

DeRossett is enjoying the rehearsals immensely. “It’s an honor to work with D.J.,” she says. “Savannah’s very lucky to have him.”

As for her cast mates, DeRossett is enjoying them, too. “We have more than 50 of the most beautiful voices,” she says. “These people have voices that are just amazing.”

Even when she’s not at rehearsals, DeRossett is preparing for the show. “I am doing some deep characterization and finding out what is necessary to be such a humbug,” she says. “I’m delving into the character of Scrooge and his relationships with people, or the lack thereof.”

Has Scrooge been maligned? He certainly has DeRossett’s sympathy.

“When he was a young boy, he was left at school because his father was an alcoholic,” she says. “He was always let down by people. Scrooge just began avoiding relating to people, which led to the miserly part.”

However, when push came to shove, Scrooge did take the wrong path. “There was one person he did care about,” DeRossett says. “He chose money over her.”

DeRossett says she would tell potential audiences to come out and enjoy the production. “I would say that it’s something very different, not just the

typical Christmas Carol,” she says.

It’s just beautiful,” DeRossett says. “It exemplifies the renewed spirit of Christmas.”

Performances of A Christmas Carol will be Dec. 8, 9, and 10 at 8 p.m. with pre-show at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 and 11 at 3 p.m. with pre-show at 2:30 p.m. High school choirs scheduled to perform are Windsor Forest High School Choir on Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m., Jenkins High School Choir on Dec. 9 at 7:30 p.m., the Savannah Arts Academy Choir on Dec. 10 at 2:30 p.m., the South Effingham High School Choir on Dec. 10 at 7:30 p.m. and the West Chatham Middle School Choir on Dec. 11 at 2:30 p.m. The production will be presented at Trustees Theater, 216 E. Broughton St. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Call the box office at 525-5050.

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Linda Sickler

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