BWW Interview: Theresa Walker, Timothe Bittle, And Alicia McGinty of A CHRISTMAS CAROL at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre
The classic novel A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is a holiday favorite. Whether in book form, as a film, or on the stage, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge and Bob Cratchit never fails to tug at the heart-strings and remind us about the things that are really important. Scrooge is helped along his journey from heartless miser to a kind and generous man by the ghosts of Christmas present, past, and future. A Christmas Carol opens at Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre on November 15th, and we had a chance to hear about the production from Theresa Walker, Timothe Bittle, and Alicia McGinty, the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, respectively.
BWW: Tell us a little about yourself.
Walker: My name is Theresa Walker - I play the Ghost of Christmas Past. I have been working for Prather Entertainment Group for 22 years. I am married to Craig Smith, who is also in the show! I am a Lancaster native; I attended Encore dance center for 16 years, studying ALL the varieties of dance (tap is my favorite!) and I have a B.A. in Vocal Performance from Millersville University.
Bittle: My name is Timothe Bittle, and I'm originally from Randleman, NC. I've been an actor for over 20 years. This will be my fifth production with Prather Entertainment.
McGinty: This is my first season with Prather, and it has been a fantastic experience so far! I live in New York City with my dog, Luna, and I teach fitness and English in my free time from performing. I started dancing when I was three years old and have worked professionally for the past six years. I have studied all styles of dance and recently transitioned into the Musical Theatre world, which I am loving!
BWW: Have you performed in A Christmas Carol before? If so, what do you love about doing this show? If this is your first time doing A Christmas Carol, what made you decide to audition for it?
Walker: I did A Christmas Carol the last time they performed it here at the Dutch Apple about 6 years ago. Last time I played Mrs. Mopps, the old woman, so I got a bit of an upgrade this year. Of course, now playing an old lady is kind of my wheelhouse (or playing a scantily clad dumb blonde - I often play one extreme or the other). So, playing the ethereal, sprite-like Ghost of Christmas Past is a nice change of pace. I also finally get to sing in my lyric soprano range, instead of belting alto parts, which is gratifying.
Bittle: This is my second time doing A Christmas Carol, and I love the message it sends of love and helping your fellow man.
McGinty: This is my first time performing in A Christmas Carol! I auditioned in New York for Prather's season. When they asked some of us to do pointe near the end, I realized it was for A Christmas Carol. I have loved the story since I was a child, but I was especially excited that the Ghost of Future expresses herself through dance as I have done for most of my life.
BWW: There are many different versions of A Christmas Carol, including the original book by Dickens, the popular stage musical, movies with the Muppets and Mickey Mouse, and many others. What is your favorite version?
Walker: Is there any contest? I mean, obviously The Muppets! My husband Craig is playing Jacob Marley in this production, and I just really wish they could make a second hologram of him so he could duet with himself singing "Marley & Marley" like Statler and Waldorf do in The Muppet version! However, in terms of classic renditions of A Christmas Carol the film Scrooge, starring Albert Finney as Scrooge, is my absolute favorite. The music in that version, especially the song "Thank You Very Much" where they all celebrate with a very "Hello Dolly"-esque dance number down the streets of London because Scrooge is gone is MY FAVORITE. I wish it was in the stage version! But Rob Summers, who plays Scrooge at Dutch Apple is just about as good as Albert Finney; seriously, he is a flawless Scrooge, so I have no complaints about the stage show!
Bittle: This version we are doing with music by Alan Menken is my favorite so far that I have performed, but there is a special place in my heart for A Muppet Christmas Carol!
McGinty: My favorite is the original book by Dickens because I read it before seeing any other versions and I got to imagine it for myself first.
BWW: In your opinion, why do people love A Christmas Carol so much that they'll watch it or read it year after year?
Walker: At the surface, A Christmas Carol is something we can all relate to, on both sides of the story. We don't always feel like we're in the Christmas spirit, and sometimes we can sympathize with Scrooge. Life feels more and more frenzied every year, and often it seems like people are constantly in each other's way, roads are filled with traffic, stores are overcrowded, and with the commercialism of Christmas, we ALMOST get where Scrooge is coming from.
On the flipside, when feeling especially festive, we can relate to the other people in the story, who just want to escape life's troubles and lose themselves in the splendor & magic of Christmas. Cutting through all of that, at the heart of this touching story, is a timeless & heart-tugging message of love and forgiveness - loving our neighbor, forgiving each other, and, just as importantly, loving and forgiving ourselves, so that we may become the best versions of ourselves that we are meant to be. The themes in this story never get old. These themes are as relevant today as they were in 1843-maybe even more so-and serve as a beautiful reminder of the true meaning of the Christmas season.
Bittle: I think it's that feeling of knowing a person can change and seeing the love in all families despite wealth or status.
McGinty: A Christmas Carol is a classic story that reminds us what is important in life. It's also the perfect way to get in the Christmas spirit with great music and dancing.
BWW: If you had to pick one song from A Christmas Carol to get stuck in your head, which song would it be and why?
Walker: It must be my song, "The Lights of Long Ago"... It is pretty, but man is it repetitive. I sing the same musical theme throughout act 1, just modulating up and up and up about 6 times. We're all always humming or singing it backstage. We have some alternate lyrics we've made up for fun, but I shall not be repeating them. Hopefully I don't forget myself and let those other lyrics slip out!
Bittle: It would be my song "Abundance and Charity"!
McGinty: I would definitely choose "Fezziwig's Annual Christmas Ball" because it is an absolute blast to perform. It really is a party on stage, and I love to carry that energy with me after the show.
BWW: A Christmas Carol is a story filled with emotion. How does performing in A Christmas Carol make you feel?
Walker: I like to say I am fairly emotionless because I'm not a big crier. But, with what Rob brings to the character of Scrooge, coupled with the heartbreak his character experiences throughout his past and being on stage to witness all of that with Scrooge as The Ghost of Christmas Past, I have to say I get verklempt! The music that Alan Menkin wrote for this production is also beautiful and lends itself completely to the story.
Bittle: I leave each performance feeling light and full of Christmas spirit, which is something I think everyone needs!
McGinty: I get to play a lot of different characters throughout the show, and they each experience very different emotions. I feel everything from disappointment as the blind, old hag to joyful as a member of the ensemble to powerful as the Ghost of Future.
BWW: What is your favorite part of the show?
Walker: I really love when Jacob Marley shows up in Scrooge's bedroom and all the ghosts come out and perform the number "Link By Link". It is a great number - super fun, a little spooky, and I am partial to Jacob Marley himself, since he is my spouse!
Bittle: I think that would be Jacob Marley's number "Link by Link". He is accompanied by a group of glow-in-the-dark ghosts!
McGinty: My favorite part of the show is "Dancing on Your Grave" when the Ghost of Future reveals herself. It's Scrooge's last chance and the most intense part of the show. Also, I get to dance a contemporary pointe piece for nearly ten minutes so it's a Dancer gone Musical Theater Actor's dream.
BWW: The spirits have always been the most interesting characters in the show for me as an audience member. What is the most challenging part of playing your particular spirit in the show?
Walker: As the Ghost of Christmas Past, she usually is portrayed with a youthful, sprite-like persona, since she is the essence of Scrooge's childhood memories. She shows him the "lights" in his life - these beautiful people and memories that he has either carefully stored away or pushed away to the back of his mind because they make him feel too much joy or too much pain or both. It is challenging to portray an abstract concept like that and make it accessible and not confusing to the audience. I try to make sure my character is actively involved emotionally within each memory and moment so that it is apparent that the Ghost of Christmas past is also a part of Scrooge's mind and is controlling everything he is seeing and opening his eyes as to WHY he is remembering these things.
Also, the childlike nature could come across as annoying or not likeable to the audience, so I have to walk a fine line where she is youthful to represent Scrooge's youth, but she is also omnipresent and very wise. She is really very old - as old as light itself - so I want her to come across as sort of a flickering star far off in the sky. The emotions she feels are as quick and fleeting as the speed of the memories she is showing Scrooge, but she is always there, in the distance.
I take my inspiration from the elves Galadriel & Tauriel in Lord of the Rings, the nymphs from Midsummer Night's Dream, mixed in with the little child "light blob" version from the Albert Finney "Scrooge".
Bittle: The Ghost of Christmas Present is pretty similar to my own personality. He's cheerful, laughs a lot, and gets to dance around. So it's not to challenging to play him, but I guess trying to breathe at the end of the song can be.
McGinty: The Ghost of Future appears at the end of Act II, and she is intense, terrifying and powerful. I love portraying her for all of these reasons. The most challenging is when she has to watch Tiny Tim pass away because even as a fierce spirit she still has to do things she doesn't want to.
BWW: If you could give someone only one reason to come see this production of A Christmas Carol, what would that reason be?
Walker: It will put you in the Christmas spirit! If you're already in the Christmas mood, it will keep you in it! Also, you have no excuses because it is a short show-only an hour and a half. Anyone can work that into their busy holiday schedule.
Bittle: It will definitely put you in the holiday spirit!
McGinty: There is something in this show for everyone. You want to hear great singers? We got it. You want to be inspired by a heartfelt story? That's here. You want a full out tap number and a contemporary pointe piece? This is your show. Even if none of that appeals to you, A Christmas Carol will get you in the holiday spirit and you should enjoy it with the whole family.
BWW: In A Christmas Carol, we see some examples of holiday traditions. Do you have any holiday traditions that are particularly special to you?
Walker: My husband and I go to midnight mass downtown at St. Mary's every year with family, which is very special to us. We also exchange one gift on Christmas Eve. I also have a tradition that I must watch White Christmas while I wrap gifts, it is my #1 favorite movie of all time. Getting to play Judy last Christmas when Dutch Apple did White Christmas was literally a dream come true. Craig and I also take our boys, Aidan & Braedan to a local tree farm to pick out our tree every year, and that is always a very exciting day!
Bittle: One of my best friends and I have a tradition of exchanging presents and watch Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. I'll miss doing that this year
McGinty: Every year on Christmas Eve night, my Mom, Dad, two brothers, and I go to see a movie at the theatre. Usually, the theatre is empty apart from a few others. Then, after the movie, we drive around looking at Christmas lights. We've done it ever since we were children, and it will always be special to me.
BWW: If the Ghost of Christmas Future were to show you one of your future Christmases, what would you hope to see?
Walker: That all of my family and friends are there and that everyone is healthy and happy. Maybe we would also be hosting it in our own house. And maybe Craig gets me a kitten... maybe 2 kittens.... And maybe a bunny...
Bittle: A day surrounded by family, friends, and snacks!
McGinty: I would hope to see my family gathered together around the tree with our pups and everyone being happy and healthy.
Don't miss out on this holiday classic at The Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre. Purchase your tickets at www.dutchapple.com.
Photo by Denise Trupe