This year’s production of A Christmas Carol – The Musical by The Augusta Players is a family affair.
Several local families have roles in the musical, including real-life father and son, Dave Bellmer and Shaun Bellmer, who play the popular characters Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim, also a father-and-son pair.
Dave Bellmer has played the role of Bob Cratchit in the past three productions of the musical, as well as in the previous stage play version.
“It’s the fifth time I’ve played the role of Bob Cratchit. This year is special. My son will be my son in the play,” Bellmer said.
Shaun, 9, didn’t audition for the musical last year, but he decided to take a chance this year and landed the role of Tiny Tim. It’s probably the last year Shaun can play the character because he’s growing up.
“It was thrilling for all of us in the family because it allows us to participate and do things together. For the amount of time that we have to put into preparation for these shows, it’s an opportunity to spend more time with your kids that you normally don’t have. My younger daughter, Abigail, is also in this production. It’s a family affair,” Bellmer said.
Being real life father and son will enhance the performance, Bellmer said.
“Certainly the connection between a true-life father and son is going to be more evident, I think, for the audience. It makes it easier for me to portray some of the emotions for my character because no matter how well I get to know the other Tiny Tims that I’ve worked with, I still don’t know them as well as my own son,” Bellmer said.
This will be Shaun’s debut with The Augusta Players, which includes two solos. Tiny Tim is 6 years old and sickly, so Shaun will wear a leg brace in the show.
“My knee has to be locked,” he said.
The rehearsals for A Christmas Carol have even spilled into the Bellmer home.
“A Christmas Carol is set in London, so we find ourselves talking to each other with British accents as we go about doing things around the house,” Bellmer said.
THIS YEAR marks the fourth season The Augusta Players will perform a musical version of the Charles Dickens classic, said director Debi Ballas. They produced the stage play version of the show for eight years. A Christmas Carol has become an important holiday tradition, she said.
“A lot of people feel that this is a must-see during the holidays,” Ballas said. “I think A Christmas Carol focuses on something that we all strive to improve on during the holidays, and that is to stop focusing on commercialism and materialism and focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I think that’s the message that rings loud and clear in this production. The musical version is absolutely beautiful.”
The production has more than 50 local cast members. It’s the same version of the musical that ran for 10 years at Madison Square Garden in New York. The music is by composer Alan Menken, who also wrote music for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. The lyrics are by Lynn Ahrens, Ballas said.
Real-life husband and wife Kitty and Les Reagan also play a married couple, Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, in the musical. Kitty played the role in 2009, but this is her husband’s first time acting alongside her because he was working as the show’s musical director and conductor. The Reagans planned to do the show together and appear in the party scene.
“It’s a very, very fun part of the show. It’s a time when Scrooge is happy. The Fezziwigs contribute to that happiness,” Kitty said. “I guess this is the first time we’ve played a role together. We’ve been on stage together, but we’ve never been a couple.”
“It’s a lot of fun,” Les added. “I think we have really good chemistry on stage. I think we both wanted to play a role together for a long time. I love this show. I’ve been involved with it since the very first year.”
The couple’s 24-year-old daughter, Katie, appears in the show as Sally Anderson, the wife of Scrooge’s nephew’s friend. It’s the third year she has performed in A Christmas Carol.
THE MUSICAL is also a family affair for Mike and Kelley Sleeper and their 12-year-old son, Noah, who plays a poor child. It’s his second time appearing in A Christmas Carol – The Musical. Last year, he and his father were in the production together.
“It’s nice because we’ve got the whole family here. I’m just happy,” Noah said.
Kelley plays a caroler and a rich woman. Her husband and son encouraged her to audition so the entire family could be involved.
“It’s something we could all do together for Christmas,” Kelley said. “It’s a lot of work and you see a lot of late nights, but in the end, it’s just a beautiful show for the family to come see. It really brings Christmas to you a little bit early.”
This year, Mike will play the roles of Smythe, a poulterer, a dancing ghost and Old Joe. Last year, he was a businessman and Scrooge’s father.
Longtime theater lovers, Mike said that he and his wife met playing opposite each other in The Sound of Music at Evans High School.