Are you finding it hard to muster enough Christmas cheer this year? You may find an antidote for your bah humbuggery in the warm tradition of the Omaha Community Playhouse’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol.”
This year, “A Christmas Carol” is directed by the trio of Susan Baer Collins (returning from the 2021 production, and continuing her long-standing, award-winning partnership with OCP), Stephen Santa (OCP Artistic Director, coming off directing this season’s “School of Rock” and bearing a conspicuously fitting name), and Jim McKain (last season’s assistant director for the play, and director of one of my favorite OCP productions, “The Mystery of Irma Vep”). The production was originally adapted from Charles Dickens’ original book by Charles Jones, OCP director in 1975, with orchestration by John J. Bennett and choreography by Joanne Cady — this year, Jim Boggess serves as musical director while Michelle Garrity handles choreography. This year’s production is the 47th consecutive one from OCP, following the play’s return to the stage last year after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the production into a virtual showing.
“A Christmas Carol” should be a familiar tale to most, as a holiday staple for almost 200 years since Dickens first published the original novella, with countless film adaptations and a nearly half-decade-long run at OCP. There’s Ebenezer Scrooge (Jerry Longe), some ghosts (Don Keelan-White, Julie Huff, and DJ Tyree), family man Bob Cratchit (Jacob Roman) and his son Tiny Tim (Charlotte Couch), lessons about greed and the indomitable nature of good cheer, plenty of songs, a healthy sprinkle of spooky moments, and a whole lot more Christmas spirit.
Familiarity and tradition extend to the rest of the production, too. New additions to the cast fit right in alongside returning performers, dashing across familiar sets to songs that have been sung for decades. Another production might suffer from so little change year after year, but the sameness of “A Christmas Carol” is less an empty creative tank and more the comfort of a tried-and-true story told by the fireside every Christmas Eve. After 47 consecutive years, the production has long since settled into a rhythm that draws crowds with every rising curtain.
Most traditions must eventually give way to something new, however, and the OCP production has a big change ahead — after 17 years, the indispensable Jerry Longe is hanging up Scrooge’s scarf in one final season as the star and veritable anchor of “A Christmas Carol.” Over the show’s tenure, there have only ever been two Scrooges, making this a particularly unique change for OCP. This, like every ending, will lead into new beginnings, a fact somewhat mirrored in the story in question. Scrooge has an ending of his own, but he starts something new; and while Longe’s completion of almost two decades in a role is very different from ending a lifetime of misanthropic, miserly behavior, both are the springboard for new things. Scrooge’s personality shift pairs nicely with the next chapter in Longe’s life, and all the wonderful potential in new casting for the geezer Ebenezer.
“A Christmas Carol” plays at the Omaha Community Playhouse from Wednesday to Sunday every week through Dec. 23, 2022. Tickets are currently available for purchase by phone at (402) 553-0800, online at OmahaPlayhouse.com or in person at the OCP Box Office.