'Christmas Carol' gets a musical makeover

Jackie Ricciardi/Staff
The cast of A Christmas Carol, Michael Hamilton as Scrooge, Dave Bellmer as Bob Cratchit and Tripp Carter as Tiny Tim.
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Michael Hamilton sees more depth to the character of Ebenezer Scrooge than others do.

"Some people think of him as just mean, but I don't think this is fair," said Hamilton, who is taking on the role for a third consecutive year in the Augusta Players' A Christmas Carol: The Musical, which will be staged Dec. 11 and 12.

Since it's a role Hamilton is very familiar with, he has taken a fresh approach to the character this year. He is not as concerned about learning lines or remembering his blocking but exploring this character.

"I listen to what he's saying and what the songs are saying," he said.

Rather than being a caricature of a grumpy, miserly old man who hates Christmas, Scrooge is a product of his childhood and early adulthood and has many scars, according to Hamilton. All the people he loved abandoned him. His father was imprisoned, and his mother and beloved sister died. The only woman he ever loved left him because she thought Scrooge was more interested in money than in her. And as an older man, Scrooge loses his only friend, Marley, to death.

Hamilton believes his obsession with money stems from this fear of losing it all and wanting to make sure it never happened again. Rather than invest in relationships, he spent all of his time investing in his business. At the end, of course, he sees the error of his ways and vows to spend the rest of his life righting his wrongs.

But this version of the Charles Dickens' classic is not a dreary character study, but a happy holiday production.

"The straight play and some movie versions of A Christmas Carol tend to be dark," said Debi Ballas, the director. "I think the musical version with a score by Alan Menken who wrote Beauty and the Beast makes this production light and festive and joyous."

Menken also wrote music for Disney's The Little Mermaid. His collaborator, Lynn Ahrens, wrote for Ragtime and Seussical.

Ballas said she was a little concerned at first about changing from the traditional non-musical version of A Christmas Carol the Players had performed for several years. After listening to the music, she was sold, and audiences have told her the same thing.

"People come to me and rave about it. They've said Christmas Carol has not been our favorite holiday production. This one is different,' " she said.

Maybe the reason people don't always like A Christmas Carol is they can see a little bit of themselves in the main character of Scrooge.

"If we are all honest with ourselves, we can all relate to him just a little. We all get a little cranky at Christmas with the hustle and bustle of all the things we are forced to do," said Ballas.

If you go

WHAT: A Christmas Carol: The Musical presented by the Augusta Players

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 11; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 12

WHERE: Imperial Theatre

COST: Tickets range from $15 to $41. For information, call (706) 826-4707 or visit www.augustaplayers.org.


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