The Group Rep presents “A Carol Christmas” – a new musical version of the immortal Charles Dickens classic set in America today, book by Doug Haverty, music/lyrics by Bruce Kimmel, directed by Bruce Kimmel, orchestrations by Richard Allen, choreography by Kay Cole, and produced by Gina Yates and Kevin Hoffman.
We love a classic tale. But we love it more when you flip that classic tale to create a new outlook on the story.
In the Group Rep’s version of “A Carol Christmas,” instead of a man named Scrooge we have a woman named Carol, the successful, demanding host of a home-shopping show who cares nothing for Christmas and wants her staff to work right through the holidays. Seventeen new songs and all of the characters you know and love – Marley, Cratchit, Fred and Tiny Tim are women in this fun, charming and touching family friendly, new musical.
We asked the the creator of the book, Doug Haverty, more about the show.
What made you “modernize” the original “A Christmas Carol?”
In 2009, the Group Rep did a newer musical version of “A Christmas Carol” (under the direction of then Artistic Director, Ernest Figueroa). It was unusual, poetic with lots of additional Dickensian prose culled from other essays. The ghosts were large theatrical puppets. I played Bob Cratchit and it was so gratifying to tell this story during the holidays and especially in a year when we were still dealing with the financial downfall. Our show was healing to audiences at that point in time. So, I thought I would try to make a new musical version and make it contemporary. While it’s wonderful escapism to go back to jolly old England and watch Scrooge in despicable action, there’s definitely a separation. We think, “Oh, there’s no one that extreme nowadays.” And that got me thinking. Are there people out there who would never consider themselves a “Scrooge,” and I think that maybe there are.
Many people have said that Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” has the perfect plot. You have a major character who just wants to be left alone and then has an epiphany and realizes the life he’s missing and that there’s great joy in generosity. We all love a major change in a character and there’s wonderful satisfaction in knowing the story and seeing him gradually learn and change. We’ve tried to follow this plot carefully with (hopefully) just a few new curves to let it have its own flavor.
“A Carol Christmas” at the Group Rep Hartley Powers Debi Tinsley. Photo Karen Staitman.
Why did you switch genders?
Many of my plays have female protagonists, so I thought it would be fun to explore that. I know there are adaptations where Scrooge has been turned into a woman. But I wanted to go a step further; I’ve taken all the major characters from the short story and made them women. And our Scrooge, Carol, does not see herself as a penny-pincher. She is just a driven, successful female entrepreneur who has been forced to be stingy with her time. And she ultimately learns (by visiting the past, looking deeper into the present and looking ahead) that she can be even more successful if she immerses herself into the lives of the people working for her and to enjoy life and its simple pleasures.
Our Carol/Scrooge does not hate Christmas, per se, she doesn’t like the slow down and apathy that accompanies the holidays. People start being less productive because of “the holidays.” In her I Want song, she suggests that Christmas come every four years (like Olympics and elections) so they’d be more special. I’m hoping that people today will actually identify with her.
Where did you find your “Carol?”
That’s an interesting question. The Group Rep is a membership company and we try to cast our shows from within the membership. Bruce conducted a series of musical theatre workshops at the theater and worked with the Group Rep members. We have written the role of Carol to be ageless, so we could have gone any number of directions. My daughter, Hartley, recently joined Group Rep (and played Hermia in last year’s Marc Singer-directed production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”). I hoped that she’d be able to play a part in this play — there are lots of women’s roles. And when we began casting, director Bruce Kimmel said to me that he thought Hartley was our strongest choice for Carol. So, my daughter is Carol.
Has there ever been “A Christmas Carol” musical?
There are many adaptations of the story; over 30 films, many musicals and even an opera. Some of my favorites are the animated version with Mr. Magoo as Scrooge and the Albert Finney film version called “Scrooge.”
Tell me about other musicals you have done?
I have written several musicals, most notably “Inside Out,” which started out in 1989 at the Group Rep and wound up Off Broadway at The Cherry Lane and then was produced around the U.S. and in Canada and Europe. It just opened last month in Belgrade, translated into Serbian. Other musicals at Group Rep include: “Love Again,” The Ghost of Gershwin.” Additionally, I was commissioned to write two musicals for Santa Barbara’s Access Theatre: “The Legend of the Crystal Waters” (a musical fantasy), “Flavia and the Dream Maker” (a musical biography of Flavia Weed, the painter/poet), and commissioned by EvenSong for “A Different Coat of Armor” (a musical about Saint Francis of Assissi). One of my favorites is an modern adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost” called “iGhost.” I have collaborated with some amazing composers and lyricists including: Adryan Russ, Wayland Pickard, Shelly Markham, Mark Henderson, Bob Garrett, John Reynolds, David M. Strauss and, of course, Bruce Kimmel.
What’s director/composer Bruce Kimmel’s background?
Bruce has an extensive background in musical theatre, having written and directed many musicals as well as produced hundreds of original cast recordings and solo albums. As a songwriter, his song, “Simply” won a MAC Award for Best Song of the Year.
“A Carol Christmas” at the Group Rep Lloyd Pedersen and cast. Photo Karen Staitman.
What is the most difficult thing in adapting a story to a musical?
Condensing is the hardest part because the source material is so rich. So, we have to squeeze a lot of information into songs and scenes. This particular story is especially challenging because everyone knows it so well. So, even though we’ve set it today and in America, we’ve tried to hit all the same plot points. In the original, Scrooge goes back to his Christmas past and remembers his love for a girl named Belle. We do the same thing, only our Carol goes back in time and remembers her Blake, but in our story, he is still in her life and romantically interested in her. So, we have another story arc we’ve added. And one of my favorite things about the source story is Tiny Tim and how he melts Scrooge’s heart. In our version, Tim is Trina and we’ve made her story a little more prominent.
Is there a message to your musical?
The message here is similar to the original. But in setting it in the present, we’re hoping the message is more aimed at today’s world where being an aggressive entrepreneur is admirable. This is like watching a story we all know and love and seeing it dressed up in new surroundings. I hope people find it refreshing. There’s so much negativity out in the world, I wanted to offer something affirming, charming, comfortable and moving.
I hope that people leave the theater with renewed hope and refreshed and look at their own lives and appreciate what they have and ask themselves if there’s anything they could do to improve the lives of people around them. Change is refreshing and the joy contagious.
Is the musical casted from Group Repertory Theatre Company?
Most of the parts are cast from the membership. I wrote this show with this company in mind and we certainly could have cast it entirely from our membership. But some members were not available either due to holiday plans or previous engagements. We don’t have any children as members, and we have a quintet of carolers who are all children, so we had open calls for that as well as some of the other roles.
“A Carol Christmas” at the Group Rep. Celine Bautista, Momoka Kato, Ellie Birdwell, Chihiro Kato, Andrew Grigorian. Photo by Karen Staitman.
November 16 – December 30, 2018
Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm.
There is an additional Saturday matinee on the Saturday, November 24th at 2pm.
There is no show on Friday, November 23rd (Black Friday).
The Group Rep
10900 Burbank Blvd. NoHo Arts District 91601
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