Ebenezer Scrooge (David de Vries, left) meets the Ghost of Christmas Present (Bart Hansard0. Photos by Greg Mooney

THE ALLIANCE’S TELLING OF ‘A CHRISTMAS CAROL’ TURNS 28 THIS SEASON, BUT FOR DIRECTOR ROSEMARY NEWCOTT, IT’S A NEW SHOW EVERY YEAR.

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“A Christmas Carol” runs Dec. 8-24 at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Details, tickets HERE or at 404.733.5000.

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IF YOU’VE GONE LOOKING for Scrooge this season, you’ll find the Alliance Theatre’s infamous miser in a new locale.

Oh, he’s still spreading misery in 19th-century London, greedily counting his shillings and ha’pennys and turning the less fortunate out of their homes, but he’s moved from Midtown to Cobb County this season.

So, revelers from far and near, welcome to Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center and the Alliance’s 28th annual telling of David H. Bell’s musical, multicultural adaptation of the Dickens holiday classic.

At its redemptive core, of course, is ol’ Ebenezer — played for a fourth consecutive season by David de Vries — finally seeing the good in mankind in time to carve the Christmas goose. Oops, we sort of gave away the ending. But likely that doesn’t matter one smidge of figgy pudding. Audiences return year after year, making this Carol one of metro Atlanta’s most popular holiday traditions.

We’ll let director Rosemary Newcott say more. Next to adapter Bell, she’s been associated with this piece more than anyone.

QUESTION: You’ve directed this Christmas Carol at least 20 times. What’s your history with the piece?

ANSWER: Yes, I’ve lived with this show a lot. I acted in the first production at the Alliance. I was in the ensemble and played a number of roles — including Fan, Scrooge’s sister, and Belle, Scrooge’s long-ago love interest. And I was Mrs. Cratchit for a while. Then David Bell started directing, and I was assistant director for about five years. I’d help him direct it here, then direct it for Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera, which has staged a same version for almost as long.

“It’s more than a gentle reminder of what’s most important in life,” director Rosemary Newcott says of Dickens’ classic.

Q: What sort of difference has this Christmas Carol made in your life?

A: What a lovely question. It became a family event for me as my brothers and nieces and nephews all traveled here to see it. It brought us all together as a family. In 2008, my father at age 90, came to visit my sister, Mary Lou, and myself in Atlanta, and to once again see A Christmas Carol. Dad became ill during that visit and lived in assisted living in Atlanta for five years, until he died.  He was the biggest cheerleader, telling relatives and complete strangers in restaurants and stores: “It’s Broadway, just beautiful, you have to see it!” I think this adaptation is an extraordinary piece, and the longevity proves it. And I always get to remember my dad loving it so much.

Q: What about this production makes you most proud?

A: The number of people who tell me that coming to A Christmas Carol became a family tradition. They say: “We come every season, and we all dress up.” They might have a child in the family who has become old enough to see it for the first time. That’s also so lovely.

A Christmas toast with the Cratchit family. Neal A. Ghant (back, left) returns as family patriarch (and Scrooge’s employee).

Q: How do you keep it fresh and new?

A: I reread Dickens’ original text. It’s such a beautiful piece to revisit, and it always pulls me back. Every year is a new year, and our production is that way, too. There are always new actors, and they always bring new ideas. My job is always to be as true to the story and characters as possible, because then it’s going to work. The story is so positive in the way it affects audiences — that’s like a gift. Because we’re staging it in the Cobb Energy Centre this year, it’s paramount that I make sure the story’s sentiment doesn’t get lost in the largeness of the place.

Q: How do you account for the story’s timeless power?

A: It’s more than a gentle reminder of what’s most important in life. We only have a short time in this world, and what are you going to do with that time? That’s just one message, but it’s a big one. Scrooge is wasting his life. He has isolated himself from anybody and any joy and, because of that, he is wasting away and has no idea.

Also, for me, its power involves the child that’s in all of us still. I’m so much about serving the child and the child within. We submerge it, but we need it. This story reminds us it’s OK to think and feel like a child does, in that sincere and joyful and uncomplicated, uncluttered way.

Q: This might be impossible, but do you have a favorite line?

A: I have many. But what comes to mind is a line spoken by Fred Watkins, who will be played so beautifully again by Joe Knezevich. It’s about the measure of a man.

Oh, uncle. The measure of a man’s life

is the measure of this season. Measures of forgiveness

and charity; of opening hearts so long shut up against

the evils of this world and joining with a multitude

of other hearts in celebrating all that is holy and good;

celebrating all that man is capable of, yet so often ignores.

 

About Julie Bookman

Julie Bookman has written about the arts, entertainment and literature as a freelance journalist and, coast to coast, on the staffs of three daily newspapers, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She has interviewed such legends as Isaac Bashevis Singer, Liberace, Mary Martin and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

View all posts by Julie Bookman

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