The East Texas Baptist University Theatre Arts Department will perform A Christmas Carol, a musical adaption for the stage of the story by Charles Dickens. The production will be held at the Marshall Convention Center on November 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. and December 1-2 at 2:30 p.m. Directed by ETBU Associate Professor John Dement, the 31-person ensemble is diligently working to prepare for the performances.
“In both acting and music, we have very experienced performers and some who have never walked on stage before. It has been challenging, but they have all worked very hard. From a collaborative standpoint, the preparation has been fantastic,” Dement shared. “Everyone is familiar with some version of the story. My vision is to show the audience what is in their memory. It is a Victorian fairytale. The overall flavor of the play is what the audience would expect to experience, making them feel comfortable and at ease.”
From costumes to stage design, Dement’s vision informs the production to create a traditional holiday experience for the crowd to enjoy. Each production element has a part in telling the story and emphasizing the musical’s themes.
“Drawing from John’s vision for the show, I took inspiration from actual illustrations in Dickens’ book as well as other adaptions to create the costumes,” ETBU Costume Shop Supervisor Samantha Pettigrew explained. “I chose fun colors and patterns to engage the audience and catch their eye. The bright costumes also contrast Scrooge’s monotone looks until he undergoes redemption in the end. His wardrobe throughout the musical reflects his transformation.”
The cast was selected early in the semester to allow students to begin learning and practicing the music on their own. Rehearsals began in October, focusing on the music initially. Gradually, acting and blocking were incorporated. The cast and crew are now polishing their performance as the director works directly with the performers, helping them find their character and the most efficient ways to engage the audience.
“Although it is my first musical, I have enjoyed learning to sing with the different accents during rehearsals and private lessons,” ETBU freshman Caleb Helfrick shared. “I appreciate John and my fellow actors, who keep me focused, give me advice, and help me improve. I am surrounded by veterans, and it has been great to learn from them. I love the time period and costumes. It’s going to be a great show, and I am looking forward to performing for the audience.”
Many of the performers are cast for multiple roles, requiring them to portray diverse character accents and mannerisms. The ensemble also learned choreographed dances. The cast and crew expressed that, though the musical is a challenge, it is rewarding to be a part of.
“A Christmas Carol is a unique musical,” ETBU senior Payton Weinzapfel explained. “As my different roles call for various accents and demeanors, I have spent a lot of time in dialect training learning how to be heard and understood in the songs. I think the audience will love the music. I have many memories of going to see holiday shows with my friends and family. It is a very sweet time, where you can rest in the merriment and joy. We are excited to celebrate this Christmas season with our audience.”
General admission is $15 or free with an ETBU I.D. To learn more and purchase tickets, visit www.etbu.edu/theatre.