PBS to Broadcast A CHRISTMAS CAROL: THE CONCERT Nationwide, Begin. 12/15
Beginning Sunday December 15 and throughout the holiday season, PBS stations across the country will air A Christmas Carol: The Concert, the newest special from HMS Media, 17-time Emmy Award winners for arts and social issue programming for public television.
HMS Media, now celebrating its 25th anniversary, both co-produced the stage production and produced the television special. HMS has already produced critically and popularly acclaimed specials with such international cultural icons as Steppenwolf Theatre Company, The Joffrey Ballet, The Second City and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and most recently earned two Emmys for their performance documentary Dance For Life and created one of PBS highest-rated pledge specials with Jersey Boys veterans Under The Streetlamp. HMS also has deep ties to the Broadway world, having produced more than two-hundred video shoots for such shows as Wicked, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia!, Hairspray, Kinky Boots, Porgy & Bess, A Gentleman's Guide To Murder, Romeo & Juliet, A Catered Affair, Passing Strange, Next To Normal, Hair, Equus, How To Succeed In Business, Beautiful and many more in New York and around the country.
This new adaptation of the Dickens classic features Broadway veterans Michael Aaron Lindner and E. Faye Butler, both of whom excelled in national tours of Mamma Mia! and continue to be mainstays in the prestigious Chicago theater scene. Lindner has played the total roles in Shrek and Sweeney Todd and starred in Hairspray, Sunday in the Park with George, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Music Man, the Broadway-bound Hero, White Christmas, Guys and Dolls, The Producers, Into the Woods and many more. Butler recently starred in The Goodman Theatre's Pullman Porter Blues and has appeared in Caroline or Change, Ella, Ain't Misbehavin', Thoroughly Modern Millie, Could It Be Magic, Hot Mikado, Oklahoma, Crowns and others.
The special also features Kyle Scatliffe (most recently seen in the London staging of The Scottsboro Boys), Scott Coulter (multi-award winning cabaret artist, and veteran of Forever Plaid, Floyd Collins, Into The Woods, In Trousers and Pump Boys & Dinettes) and Arya Daire (Lookingglass Theater Company's Big Lake Big City, directed by
David Schwimmer, and Rasaka Theater's Bollywood Much Ado About Nothing).
The score is by Bob Christianson, an accomplished composer for film and television, with book and lyrics by Alisa Hauser, seen on Broadway as Belle in Beauty And The Beast. Christianson is also the special's executive producer, and produced the live cast recording. Stage direction is by Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company co-founder David Kersnar, who's appeared in the company's Our Town, Secret In The Wings and Still Alice and written and directed The Last Act of Lilka Kadison and Sita Ram.
This is their first foray into holiday programming, and all signs point to it becoming an instant television holiday classic.
"When the lights came up after we screened the first cut of A Christmas Carol for WTTW's programming and distribution team," says producer and HMS co-founder Scott Silberstein, "the first thing they said was, 'Congratulations, guys. This just might be PBS' new perennial holiday special.' You can't ask for a better review than that."
"It's not a standard concert, and it's definitely not a theatrical musical," explains composer Christianson. "It's a dramatic concert. And even though everyone knows the story, no one really knows what this take on it is until they see it. I didn't even know what it was until I saw it live."
As the PBS presentation of the live concert demonstrates, A Christmas Carol: The Concert is riveting both on stage and on television. Treating the narrative as much as a classic ghost story as it is a tale of redemption, Christianson and Hauser's score is packed with a diverse array of musical colors and styles, from gentle ballads to powerful "Les Miserables" style crescendos, and from blues lamentations to gospel celebrations.
Plans are underway for a national tour during the 2014 holiday season, supported by re-broadcasts of the TV special.
"When you see this thing happening live, you say, 'My God, this really is affecting people," he says. "You look out in the audience and see people being moved by it, and you say yourself, 'Yes! This is why I'm in this business."