In theatre, a single bulb is left burning when no one is around to both illuminate the stage and, for the superstitious, to keep ghosts at bay.
This bulb, dubbed a ghost light, is the first thing to go out as A Christmas Carol takes the Powerhouse Theatre stage Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 and again Dec. 5 to Dec. 8.
“Because (Charles) Dickens wrote this as a ghost story, we’re killing the light. In other words, the spirit world is welcome,” said director Jackson Mace of the beloved Christmas tale.
Adapted by Canadian thespian Michael Shamata, A Christmas Carol is a staged retelling of Dickens’ classic 1843 novella that follows an elderly curmudgeon visited by several ghosts who, over the course of the two-act production, seek to brighten Scrooge’s rather dismal disposition.
“I find the redemption of a lost soul compelling. Clearly his outlook and attitude are uplifted. That’s what Christmas should be about – the best in us. It’s always been a touching story for me,” Mace said and noted his family tradition to take in the 1951 film adaptation that saw Alastair Sim sit in Scrooge’s chair alongside Mervyn Johns and Hermoine Baddeley as the Cratchits.
“It’s a very faithful adaptation. A lot of the lines are from Dickens’ work. It’s not Bill Murray’s Scrooge,” Mace laughed.
While it’s a classic tale with which many are familiar, A Christmas Carol also marks an expedition into previously charted territory for Powerhouse Theatre.
English transplant Bob Oldfield, who dons the unceremonious garb of the production’s simultaneous protagonist and antagonist, originally starred as Bob Cratchit when Powerhouse Theatre brought A Christmas Carol to the stage in 1992.
“Twenty-six years later, it’s come full circle and he’s playing Scrooge,” Mace said of Oldfield who, when he isn’t playing the miser, leads the audio tech for Powerhouse Theatre productions. “He’s been nothing short of amazing.”
Taking the stage alongside Oldfield are fellow renowned North Okanagan performers Doug Edgar, Heather Boyd, Paul Rossetti, Susan Evans and Eileen Podanowski.
“We have quite the blend with some of the veteran actors mentoring new members, (many of whom) have come from Seaton’s 27th Street Theatre Co.,” Mace said. “It’s a wonderful cast.”
While it remains faithful to the original text, Shamata’s rendition sees the addition of harlequins who permeate the show to help entrance the viewer.
“You get seven ghosts for the price of four,” Mace chuckled.
With a cast of 24, musical sequences and the immense history of the work, Mace said it’s a production that has been in the works for the better part of a year. Mace, a Powerhouse Theatre veteran with several performances and directions under his belt, was asked to lead A Christmas Carol in the early months of the year. Eugene Leveque was asked by Mace to design a set in March and auditions were held in the summer.
James Postill, the artist behind the extensive mural that adorns the outside of Powerhouse Theatre, was asked to recreate the city streets of Dickensian London in oils for the backdrop, which was then scaled up to fit the stage and sits there currently.
“It’s often said that theatre is the ultimate team sport,” Mace said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun – terrific cast, a few surprises. Hopefully we’ll scare people a little bit. I don’t think it’s for the faint of heart. It is a ghost story.”
The production’s looming opening night isn’t a deterrent for Mace: he knows everything will fall into place and hopes that A Christmas Carol is the performance Vernon needs this winter.
“We could use a lift from time to time – that’s what theatre is about. Sometimes, our souls just need a lift, a boost. This story is time-tested – it’s done that for more than a century. It’s been one of those stories people gravitate towards, myself included,” Mace said. “If I can do any justice to it at all and make a few people smile, at the end of the day, I suppose that’s the mission statement.”
A Christmas Carol runs at Powerhouse Theatre Nov. 28 to Dec. 1 at 7:30 p.m., Dec. 2 at 2 p.m. and Dec. 5 to Dec. 8 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available for $28 adult and $22 youth 18-and-under. Some scenes may be frightening for young children. Parental discretion is advised for kids aged six-and-under.