Theatre: Behind the scenes at A Christmas Carol

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Market day: some of the cast of We Are Theatre's A Christmas Carol
Market day: some of the cast of We Are Theatre’s A Christmas Carol

Welcome to A Christmas Carol: The Musical with The Three Stooges, er, we mean the three Scrooges – yes, this production features Scrooge as a boy (Finlay Dunlop), Teenage Scrooge (James Noble) in love with Belle (Bethany Anne Middleton) and the main grumpy old Scrooge (Harry Revell).

So would it interest you to know that the old Scrooge is younger than the teenage Scrooge?

Well here at We Are Theatre we firmly believe in giving people an opportunity, so when 19 year old Harry walked through the door and auditioned to The Dentist song from Little Shop Of Horrors our thought was: we’ve found our Scrooge!

The cast is made up of people from the local community with 65 years between the youngest and oldest cast member. We’ve made this a real family friendly show and whilst we follow the original Dickens story (Tiny Tim really is Tiny – and with a beautiful song we should add).

There is of course a bit of artistic license along the way. Well, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the odd elf and dancing bauble now would it?

The show runs from Wednesday, November 27 till Friday, November 29 at 7.30pm at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre. Tickets are via York Theatre Royal Box Office or on the door at the Jo Ro theatre on show nights (subject to availability).

Blogs by cast member Olivia Jayne Newton

Busking the Christmas Carols songs
Busking the Christmas Carols songs

1st September
The nights are drawing in, the leaves are beginning to fall from the trees, and the rehearsal room is a-glow with the sweet sound of carollers singing Silent Night and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Yes, it’s that time of year again… well sort of.

The festive season has come early for the cast of We Are Theatre’s A Christmas Carol; how strange a sight it was to see everyone stood around in their summer clothes singing about bells and snow!

The cast picked the music up quickly, and we soon moved on to the choreography. With such a large cast, this of course meant lots treading on toes and bumping into people. Or maybe that’s just me…

Two other songs were also rehearsed: Marley’s Lament and the opening number, with some fantastic performances already emerging from within the bustling street scene. And it’s only the first rehearsal! I can’t wait to see how the production develops in the coming weeks. One thing I can promise: it’s (literally) going to be Christmas come early!
 
8th September
Week two of rehearsals, and the ball is well and truly rolling. The Fezziwigs’ number was first on the agenda, with cast members learning to polka for the festive party scene.

Next was the Ghost of Christmas Present’s lively song, which saw Scrooge attacked by a chorus of dancing Christmas tree decorations, before being haunted by Marley and his ghostly peers in a dance routine I found vaguely reminiscent of the video for Michael Jackson’s Thriller… Thankfully choreographers Beth and Amelia were on hand to oversee all the chaos.

We also got to hear the heart-warming song My Father. Madeleine Hicks as Tiny Tim leads the Cratchit family in singing about how much they love their father, and if I’m completely honest, it’s sweeter than a mass explosion in the sugar-plum factory. Tissues at the ready…
 
15th September
“It’s the most wonderful time of the… week?” Yes, once again the halls of the Retreat are decked with excited cast members waiting to rehearse.

The cast have been working extremely hard, and the whole of act one has been blocked. Particular attention was paid this week to Without Love – beautifully sung by Beth Middleton as Belle, A Winter’s Morning – a lovely duet between a young Ebenezer and his sister Fan, and The Light – performed by the ever-fabulous Maggie Wakeling.

Most exciting of all, there have been a few costumes floating around (literally in the case of the ghosts). The next rehearsal will be a full costumed run of act one, and I can’t wait to see how the company look!
 
22nd September
The sun picked the right day the shine this weekend – unless you were a cast member, that is. It was our first costumed run of act one, which meant gloves, scarves and bonnets over the top of the many layers Victorians insisted on wearing.

In short, we were all roasting the way chestnuts do on an open fire, but it was worth it: everyone looked fantastic and it really was as if we’d all stepped back in time!
 
29th September
A challenge faced us this weekend: to have the entire of act two blocked by the end of the rehearsal. It was, of course nothing that this most excellent  cast couldn’t handle, despite the unexpected interruption of the fire alarm.

Out into the cold we went; thankfully all was well and we were soon back on track. Guided by Charlotte and Donna we sailed through the visitations of the Ghosts of Christmas Present and Yet To Come, fitting in the songs and dance routines learned in previous weeks along the way.

It was all going swimmingly, when… that bloomin’ fire alarm again. So much for a Silent Night.

13th October
If you’re anything like Ebenezer Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, you would probably say that fun and games are what Christmas is all about; so what better way to kick off Sunday’s rehearsal than with a quiz?

But this was no ordinary Q&A – oh no: in true We Are Theatre style this was something spectacular, weird and wonderful. Commence ten minutes of madness as the company, divided into small teams, ran frantically about trying to count all the carol singers in the cast, decipher whether or not Mr Fezziwig’s sideburns are real and take bizarre photos of the characters in crazy poses.

It was all jolly good fun, and I suspect even that miserly old Scrooge himself would have enjoyed it.
 
20th October
This week was an important week in production; not only was it the first run of the whole show from start to finish, but we also had the band joining us for the first time.

It was great to hear the songs instantly transform; the haunting violin gave a new dimension to the sombre moments in the show whereas the drums breathed life to the festive numbers. And of course there was musical director Lee on piano – the glue that keeps both band and cast together.

Seeing the whole show from beginning to end made me think right back to the beginning of September, when the script was hot off the press, the summer sun was still shining and the Christmas decorations had only just made their way into the shops.

10th November
This week was a complete run of the show from curtain up to curtain down. Costumes, band and our wonderful make-up team were all present, and with two weeks to the get-in, the production is looking bigger, better and more magical than ever.

The ladies of the make-up team worked hard throughout the rehearsal to ensure that the many ghosts that crop up at various points looked suitably pale and to transform a young man into a an elderly one. No easy feat! But thankfully all went smoothly and there were plenty of make-up wipes about.

We are all also extremely proud as a cast to be led by Harry Revell as Scrooge, whose talent and dedication to his role is one of the show’s strongest aspects and well worth booking tickets for! And while we are on the subject of tickets, a little bird tells me they are selling very well – so get yours before it’s too late!


See also

 

Donna Riley and Charlotte Gray

Donna Riley and Charlotte Gray

Donna Riley and Charlotte Gray

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