The Stuttgart Theatre Center’s production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” aims to give audiences an even more vivid rendition of Ebenezer Scrooge’s story than they may have seen before.
Under the direction of Richard Roberts, actor Max Heidt portrays Scrooge as more than just a “humbug,” but a truly mean character to highlight the miracle of his restoration.
“The way [Richard] stages it, it’s a little bit darker,” said Heidt, a civilian. “In order to make [the] good ‘pop’ and be worth chasing after, you have to show the dark.”
In an effort to make Scrooge’s transformation from an angry miser to a loving friend and uncle even more remarkable, Richards wanted to start the show off on a sinister note, making the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, along with Marley, more foreboding — and Scrooge more miserable than ever, Heidt said.
“Scrooge is nasty,” he added. “He’s a lost soul that seems un-savable.”
Scrooge’s journey from darkness to light is what makes “A Christmas Carol” so timeless, Roberts said. “It’s one of the most beautiful stories ever written … the classic story of redemption.”
It’s also quite a challenge to portray on stage, especially for Heidt.
“He doesn’t just jump from mean to happy. His heart is so cold. He’s been that way for 60 years,” Heidt said. “He slowly softens. That’s a challenge. I want the people to see the reformation that the redemption story provides.”
He also hopes the story resonates with the audience at some level.
“Everybody needs redemption from something,” he said. “Everybody can be redeemed … .”
The Kelley Theatre show, based on Sam Patterson’s adaptation of the Dickens novel, features about 100 Victorian-era costumes, period-style sets and an impressive musical score, including 19 old-fashioned Christmas carols and hymns.
“The music’s phenomenal,” said Joe Holder, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present. “We’re doing … songs in Old English, Old French, wassailing songs … ‘Joy to the World.’ Some of the music I really want to sing, but I can’t [because of my role].”
Holder is one of many new faces bringing “A Christmas Carol” to life.
“We have a lot of new actors,” Roberts said. There are 37 actors and actresses in the play, and only 10 or so have been involved in Kelley productions before, he added. “They bring a lot of new things to [the show].”
This is Holder’s second time to take the stage in his life — and he said the experience of learning to act under Roberts has been very educational.
“He’s drawing out of us the emotions of the scenes, not just the lines,” Holder said.
Passionate actors like Holder and Heidt will give this well-known story a new perspective, Roberts said, and convey a message he believes is important to remember, especially during the holiday season.
“I just think it’s a brilliant message that no matter what, you can be saved,” Roberts said. “And if it’s by the joy of Christmas, what better?”
The show will run throughout the month of December, with performances on Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17 and 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Dec. 4, 5, 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 3 p.m. at the Kelley Theatre.
Tickets are $12 per adult, $10 per student. For reservations, call the Stuttgart Theatre Center Box Office at 421-3055/civ. 0711-729-3055.