By Jeffrey Allen Federowicz
For The Daily Item
WILLIAMSPORT — A whimsical 14-foot-tall puppet, a beloved tale with an innovative script, festive costumes and a few bah-humbugs will be discovered when the houselights dim and the curtain rises this weekend for the opening of the Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble’s production of “A Christmas Carol.”
A spirited, seasonal show it shall be.
Although the holidays bring a flood of Scrooge-inspired films, plays and mindboggling adaptations (Susan Lucci as a female Scrooge running a department store quickly comes to mind), the Bloomsburg Theater Ensemble (BTE) finds the right balance of newness and originality that freshens up the 169-year-old classic in a way that pays proper homage to one of the most beloved stories ever told.
A bah-humbug this is not.
“Everyone at the BTE has been working extra hard to put this production together and it will certainly be a great and family friendly performance that is a little bit different from past productions of ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said director, Richard Cannaday, who also adapted the Dickens classic of hope and redemption.
“The BTE has performed ‘A Christmas Carol’ many times over the years and for the past five performances, it has been the same adaptation. So this time we wanted to make it a little different and fresh but still stay true to the story.”
For many people, the BTE’s yuletide production is a cherished part of their holiday season and over the years the group has staged “A Christmas Carol” 15 times.
“People love the story of Scrooge and his journey because the story is basically about love and hope. About redemption and having another chance to make things right,” he said.
The production runs from today through Dec. 29 at the Alvina Krause Theatre in downtown Bloomsburg. Performances are Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m.
Plenty of local talent
Of course, every great story needs a great cast to bring the complex characters to life and as usual, the BTE has an abundance of local talent, both young and young at heart, who shine in the spotlight.
“I’m really excited to be part of the play. I love the story and how people that see it will learn not to be like Scrooge and instead be nice,” said Emma Varano, a 9-year-old Danville resident who makes her stage debut as Belinda Cratchit. “This is a really fun experience and I get to work with a lot of great people. I’m a little nervous about being in the play but I am also very excited.”
The production also includes a large cast of community residents from Bloomsburg and surrounding areas, including ensemble member Daniel Roth as the coldhearted Ebenezer Scrooge. Roth recently gave a sweeping performance in BTE’s “Moon Over Buffalo” and his take on Ebenezer looks to be equally impressive.
Laurie McCants will serve as the performance’s storyteller, which is one of script’s new elements in the two-hour production.
“The BTE presents a variety of theatre throughout our seasons, including classics, comedies, musicals and, of course, holiday family shows. We have produced ‘A Christmas Carol’ 15 times in our 35-year history, but we don’t present it every year,” said BTE mainstay Syreeta Combs-Cannaday. “In years past, we have presented ‘A Christmas Story,’ ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ in our stage adaptation called ‘Merry Christmas, George Bailey’ and ‘Miracle on 34th Street,’ among many others.”
Combs-Cannaday noted nearly 4,000 people typically attend BTE’s annual holiday production and the group already has more than 2,000 local students scheduled for afternoon matinees.
“It’s incredible to receive such support from our community, both here in Bloomsburg, and in outlying areas like Danville, Selinsgrove, Sunbury, Northumberland and beyond,” Combs-Cannaday said. “Schools make time in their already busy holiday schedules for BTE because their students really benefit from experiencing live theater.”