‘A Christmas Carol’ — with a twist
SARANAC LAKE — Trade in Tiny Tim Cratchit for Timmy Lou Who, drab English streets for vibrant colors and money lending for the band “Love Bologna,” and you’ve got Pendragon Theatre’s Seussified version of Charles Dickens’ holiday classic “A Christmas Carol.” The play opens next week.
What does “Seussified” mean? Well, everything rhymes — yes, all of it — the costumes are surreal, and the ghost of Jake Marley says “dude.”
It’s the classic tale of a grumpy man confronted with the past, future and present, but with a rock ‘n’ roll twist.
It’s not all pecack yak milk, binko bird goose and roast beast, though.
“Are there no prisons?” Scrooge still asks, “Are there no workhouses?”
Director Kent Streed said it is a “chaotic script,” and he loves it because of that.
The play mostly stars children ages 7 to 18, with a few adults here and there. Streed said he wanted the kids to play a big part. In “A Christmas Carol,” they’re usually “wallpaper,” he said.
Streed said he found the script from an author who Seussifies stageplays, and said the young thespians have brought a lot of energy to the show.
“They’re funny,” Streed said.
On stage, they’re lively, expressive and having a great time themselves. They’ve nailed their comedic timing, flexed their creative muscles and made lasting friends.
“I’ve met a ton of people doing this,” said River Gray, who plays the Scrooge in his younger years.
Will Domenico, who plays Fred Scrooge, joined the play with a friend and has been grateful for the opportunity it’s given him to socialize with people in a year where it’s been difficult to do that.
“I haven’t been able to do that for a while,” Domenico said.
Mason Estling, who plays Bob Cratchit, did a virtual Pendragon play last year and said he’s glad to do it before a live audience this year.
“I think it’s been really fun how the whole cast has put it together,” Estling said.
Barrie Ramsey, one of the adults in the play, said his last career was as a middle school counselor and drama teacher.
“Like they needed a lesson in drama,” he said with a chuckle. “They’re awfully high energy, but they’re fun to work with.”
Julia Walkow, who plays the Maid, tried to talk as her fellow castmates and friends harassed her, bombarding her with jazz hands and head-pokes. She said she’s been in plays with the Lake Placid Center for the Arts with these friends before, but this was her first time at Pendragon.
“It’s kind of a new area to work with,” she said.
Eloise Zobel, a veteran of the stage, recently moved back to Saranac Lake after living in Asia for four years, where she was in plays there.
“I’m back after four years, so nobody knows me,” Zobel said. She was making fast friends with her castmates.
She saids she loves playing the ghost of Jake Marley, with his haunting noises and evil cackle.
Opening night will be the debut performance for some of the actors. Ada Popp, who plays little Timmy Lou Who, said she auditioned after seeing her brother perform in a Pendragon play this summer.
“I thought he was so good and funny so I wanted to try,” she said. “It’s exciting.”
Ami Leipzig said this is the first play he’s been in. All his friends were doing it, and he wasn’t doing anything else. Now, he said he’s glad he got cast. He’s still getting his stage legs.
“I don’t know if I’m good or not because I’m not out here,” Leipzig said, gesturing to the audience seats.
His castmates assured him that he’s doing great.
Sofia Kite-Whidden said she’s been in two plays before this, and loves performing.
“It’s just being somebody different, it’s kind of escaping your own world,” she said.
Some of the young actors are bringing a fair amount of experience.
“I’ve been doing Pendragon for pretty much as long as can remember,” said Summer Cranker, who plays the Ghost of a Christmas Present. “I’ve never been in a Seussified play and it’s so much fun.”
She said it’s different — “a good different.”
Peggy Orman, a narrator and one of the adults in the play, said her first Pendragon show was a version of the Christmas Carol story in 2003 and she’s been in several renditions since. She said she likes the Seussified version, with its weird words and fast pace. Her favorite version of the story is “The Muppet Christmas Carol.”
River Gray said he’s been doing theater since the third grade and has been in numerous plays now.
“I like the excitement of the first night,” Gray said. “It’s always been my dream to be an actor on Broadway or in Hollywood.”
Rory Popp said he was in Camp Pendragon this summer and is glad he came back.
“It’s been a good way to spend my time and I’m really excited for when people are actually going to get to watch this,” Popp said.
“I always liked to act,” Abel Williams said.
He’s attending North Country School, where there’s lots of acting opportunities.
“Acting is awesome because you can pretend to be other people and you can just let your creativity shine,” Williams said.
The cast has been rehearsing the play every night for the past week, and have the script almost all ironed out.
“Now, I think almost all of us have our cues and everything,” Rory Popp said. “It’s just working on tuning up the fineness.”
“Kids learn lines, like instantly,” Ramsey said. “They’ll come back the next day and they’ll know, not only their own lines, but they’ll know everybody else’s, too.”
He’s as excited for opening night as the kids are.
“It’s actually my favorite Christmas story of all,” Ramsey said. He said it’s a story of “redemption.”
His favorite version on the screen is the 1951 rendition starring Alastair Sim.
Streed said his favorite version of “A Christmas Carol” is still the book. He loves Dickens’ use of language and humor.
“I think it’s about the fact that Tiny Tim lives,” Streed said. “And it’s Scrooge’s altruistic actions. It’s not that Scrooge is better for himself, it’s better because he helps somebody else live.”
The story is also about the power words have, for good or bad, as the perfectly despicable Scrooge confronts the man he’s become.
The play opens this coming Friday and runs every day through Dec. 19. Shows on Dec. 16, 17 and 18 are at 7 p.m. with matinees on Dec. 18 and 19 at 2 p.m.
Mask-wearing and proof of vaccination are required to attend, and seating will be limiting to socially distance the crowd in groups.
Streed said all local theaters — Pendragon included — went through the summer without serious COVID-19 spread during performances by adhering to these safety measures.
A previous version of this article incorrectly identified Eloise Zobel. The Enterprise regrets the error.