Theater offers fresh take on Christmas classic - East Valley Tribune: West Valley

Theater offers fresh take on Christmas classic

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Posted: Wednesday, November 30, 2011 8:00 am

Theater Works’ is starting a new holiday tradition with the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol.”

But don’t expect one of many versions that have been found on Valley stages for the last several seasons. This particular production has been written by Valley actor and playwright Richard Hardt, who injects a little more humor into the show, which opens Friday at the Peoria Center for the Performing Arts.

Hardt said he didn’t rewrite the story as a farce built on the situation of the plot.

“Scrooge’s isolation lends him humor anytime he deals with the rest of the world,” said Hardt. “He is a ‘fish out of water’ so to speak, a man who is forced to deal with a situation so far from his own experiences that it opens itself up for comical reactions to the events, as well as commentary and reflection by those around him.”

“A Christmas Carol” follows miserly Ebneezer Scrooge, who is visited by three spirits, who eventually change his outlook on the holidays.

For inspiration, Hardt used the original novel as source material rather than watch any film versions or read any stage adaptations.

“I found that there were so many moments in the book that directly relate to the world around us in 2011 even though the book was written 1843, and I tried to emphasize those moments without being at all preachy or sacrificing sublety,” he said. “It was quite fun actually and I hope that I have created a story that will strike the audience as fresh without undermining their enjoyment of the story they have come to love.”

Robyn Allen, Theater Works artistic director and play’s director, said she thought it was the perfect opportunity to produce “A Christmas Carol.”

In addition, music has been added to the play as well.

The theater usually performs the same holiday play a couple years in a row, such as “Christmas Schooner” and for the last two years, “Miracle on 34th Street.”

For more than two decades, Actors Theatre in Phoenix performed “A Christmas Carol,” but chose to retire its version last December. Allen thought it would be a great idea to bring this classic to the West Valley, but she wanted to freshen it up for audiences.

“Many of the versions are very dark and that’s fine,” Allen said. “But we really wanted to make this a full experience for the whole family.”

Allen said the production will still include many technical effects and sets, but it won’t be overproduced either.

“It’s such a beautiful story, and although special effects are fun, we tried to strip it down to its purest form and make it accessible to everyone,” she said. 

And Hardt agrees.

“Christmas is often the time we feel the pangs of loss most acutely and the idea of redemption, of being able to overcome the mistakes is something all of us can relate to, or at least wish for,” Hardt said. “Redemption and new life is what we all wish for on one level or another, I think, and ‘A Christmas Carol’ speaks directly to these themes.”

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