Bethlehem Press

Monday, December 11, 2017

‘Christmas Carol’ turns 28 at Civic

Thursday, November 30, 2017 by MAKENNA MASENHEIMER Special to The Press in Focus

Civic Theatre of Allentown’s “A Christmas Carol” is back for its 28th year. The holiday classic brings Christmas cheer to the Nineteenth Street Theatre, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown, Dec. 1 - 16.

Adapted for the stage by William Sanders and Sharon Lee Glassman from the Charles Dickens’ novel, the holiday tradition continues to delight and inspire wonder with a cast of close to 100 Lehigh Valley performers.

Sanders, who’s again directing the show, describes the process of remounting “A Christmas Carol” each December:

“Every year is very much the same. I try through costuming and meetings with the designers of finding ways to tweak the ghosts, and other aspects of the production. We change the set mostly every three years and, of course, the process changes depending on the actors.

“Most of the technical components stay pretty much traditional. We upgrade as equipment changes. For instance, the snow is now automated, whereas parents used to throw it through the grid in the ceiling of the theater.

“Major elements of the musical score have actually been the same since 1989 and I like that it remains the same. All the while, we are making slight tweaks and changes, but I think most people enjoy noticing.”

The annual production poses challenges of finding available actors during the holiday season and keeping the 28-year- old show fresh and exciting.

“We are always fortunate to find very talented people, but it is difficult to find people willing to take four days to do the student matinees.

“It may seem difficult to do the same production year after year but I find it comforting and I hope the Lehigh Valley enjoys the tradition. I know many of the actors do. There are many children who have been in the production from the time they were in grade school that return through high school and even afterward,” Sanders says.

His favorite part of the production is the hat-toss sequence with the mischievous street urchins.

“The music is very close to my heart and I fashioned it after a sequence in the book where Bob Cratchit plays on the streets with a group of kids. I think the sequence is evocative and heartwarming. I also love the Fezziwig party and when that music returns and Scrooge dances with Belle, his lost love,” says Sanders.

Though set in 1800’s England, “A Christmas Carol” has several themes that are applicable to modern times.

“I think “Christmas Carol” is always relevant. We all need to be reminded that regardless of how difficult the times we are in, the situation we are in, or the politics of the time, there is always hope for redemption and the joy of our common humanity.” Sanders says.

“I hope [the audience] leaves with hope. I hope it puts them in the mood for a wonderful holiday season because boy do we need it now.”

Tickets: Civic Theater box office, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown; civictheatre.com; 610-432-8943. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursday - Saturday and 2:20 p.m. Dec. 3, 9, 10 and 16.