It’ll be the same Christmas story many know but with a bit of a twist. This week Alexander City Theatre II (ACT II) is performing John Jakes’ “A Christmas Carol,” which puts its author Charles Dickens in the play.
“(Dickens will) step in (the scene), step out of (himself) and step into another character and have some lines,” director Patti Smith said. “He’ll do some Cockney accents and be in and out of the play. It’s really kind of different. It’s different from the traditional version that you would go to the (Alabama) Shakespeare Festival and see where you would just see the play taking place.”
Jakes wrote the play for his theatre group in Hilton Head, South Carolina, and based it when Dickens’ tour of the U.S. in 1867 and 1868. Dickens staged readings of “A Christmas Carol” and got into his characters in the theatre.
“While (the character is) reading (the script) you see scenes from the play come out and Dickens had a lot of theatrical ability,” Smith said. “(Dickens) really enjoyed the stage; he would do a little theatrical thing in his home.”
ACT II decided to perform this stage version after some of the actors performed it with New Horizon Community Theatre in West Point, Georgia. Smith said it sounded like fun to perform.
Actors Steve Thomas and Keith Garrett play Dickens and Ebenezer Scrooge respectively. Smith said this is one of the group’s biggest casts and has 27 actors taking on 80 roles.
“(That many actors) makes it very lively,” Smith said. “You get to see people do a lot of different roles and different characters and I think that makes it special too.”
A lot of things will be different for the story but it will still be familiar for audience members, according to Smith.
“For Christmas you want to do something that has a fairly large cast because all those cast members have family members and friends,” Smith said. “It generates a wide audience and is something that is seasonal. We really wanted to do ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and something that is family friendly. It appeals to all ages. It’s not something grownups would (only) enjoy.”
The cast started practicing in mid-September. Smith said people should go the show to enjoy live theatre.
“There’s nothing quite like live theatre where it’s happening right in front of you and anything can happen because it’s live,” Smith said. “Once it’s done it’s done. It’s not something you can ever recreate. Even if we do this play again, it will be different people.”
The show is a good way to get into the Christmas spirit while also reflecting on the holiday, Smith said.
“We have some singing and we have some dancing,” Smith said. “Some of it is really funny. There are some funny, funny lines in it and of course some of it is very thought provoking and makes us all want to look at our lives and be sure we’re not Scrooge.”
“A Christmas Carol” will start at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at Benjamin Russell’s auditorium. Tickets are $5 for children and $15 for adults and can be bought at the door or www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4357136.