A CHRISTMAS CAROL Opens at Hartford Stage


Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas, Connecticut's beloved holiday tradition, returns to Hartford Stage for its 14th season. Adapted and originally directed for the stage by Michael Wilson, and now directed by Hartford Stage resident director Maxwell Williams, Dickens' timeless inspiring masterpiece runs from November 25 through December 30, 2011.

The Tony Award-winning theatre, under the leadership of Darko Tresnjak, Artistic Director and Michael Stotts, Managing Director announced casting today for A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas.

Hartford Stage favorite Bill Raymond returns for his 12th turn as Scrooge for all evening and 2:00 p.m. matinee performances, and Gustave Johnson will again lead the talented cast as Scrooge at student matinees.

A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas is the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, the heartless miser who discovers the true meaning of the holiday season after a Christmas Eve haunting. Featuring all of Charles Dickens' well-known characters (Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit, and the Spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Future), the story of love and redemption is both a chilling ghost story and a heartwarming holiday event for children of all ages.

Original cast member Noble Shropshire (Milton, NY), returns to play the Ghost of Jacob Marley and Scrooge's housekeeper Mrs. Dilber. Since 2004, Robert Hannon Davis (West Hartford) returns in the roles of Bob Cratchit and Mr. Fezziwig. Rebecka Jones (Hamden) returns in the roles of Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit. Michael Bakkensen (New York) returns in the role of Scrooge's warm-hearted nephew, Fred, and Michael Preston (Hartford) makes his A Christmas Carol debut as Mr. Marvel. Cast members who have performed in all 14 seasons are JohAnna Morrison (West Hartford) as Bettye Pidgeon and the Spirit of Christmas Past, Alan Rust (West Hartford) as Bert and the Spirit of Christmas Present, and Michelle Hendrick (Hartford) as Belle.

The cast also features more than two dozen local children Tiana N. Bailey (Bloomfield),
Eli Baker (South Glastonbury), Ailie Bednarz (Deep River), Tailanse Brantley (Springfield), Natalie Castonguay (Avon), Olivia Coe (Simsbury), Jordan Cyr (Cromwell), Jacrhys Dalton, Lorenzo Dalton, Rachel Dalton (Branford), Clareight Ellis, Seanan Ellis (West Simsbury), Yoni Haller (West Hartford), Jonathan Hammond (Farmington), Andrew Holland (West Hartford), Daniel Kemple (Hartford), Daniel Madigan (Avon), Emily May (Ivoryton), Michael Oliver (Avon), Ethan Pancoast (Rocky Hill), Maiya Pascouche (Simsbury), Thomas Ranttigan (West Hartford), Abbi Rice, Katie Rice (Avon), Ankit Roy (East Hartford), Laura Spineti (Higganum), Fred Thornley (Hartford), and Garet Weirdsma (New Hartford); as well as several "stars of tomorrow" making their Hartford Stage debut - members of the BFA Acting Program at The Hartt School. Acting students participating as A Christmas Carol cast members include Ben Cole (Hartford), Alana Fallis (Hartford), Mark Ford (Hartford), Nicholas Giuliani (Hartford), Morgan Hammel (Hartford), Laura Helm (Soughborough, MA), Tom Rash (Hartford), Timothy Rizzo (Hartford), Alex Saffer (Hartford), Charles South (Hartford), Kirsten Tarczynski (Hartford), Sophia Watt (Hartford), and Salvatore Zullo (Bronx).

Charles Dickens' novella, whose full title is A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas was published in 1843 to instant success, selling six thousand copies within its first week. Originally written as a quick money maker to enable Dickens to get out of debt, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and the three spirits that visit him on Christmas Eve has become one of the most popular and enduring Christmas stories of all time. The first stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol dates back to January of 1844 in London and movie adaptations of this story were filmed as early as 1910.

Seen by nearly a quarter million people since its premiere in 1998, Hartford Stage's A Christmas Carol has become the theatre's most popular production of all time and Connecticut's favorite yuletide entertainment.

Hartford Stage's presentation of A Christmas Carol - A Ghost Story of Christmas features settings by the Tony Award-winning scenic designer Tony Straiges, costumes by Zach Brown, lighting by Robert Wierzel, and original music and sound design composed by John Gromada. Hope Clarke is choreographer, Ken Clark is musical director, and Martin Lechner is Production Stage Manager.

Support for A Christmas Carol is provided by the Greater Hartford Arts Council and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism.

Since its arrival in Hartford, A Christmas Carol has garnered rave reviews not only from audiences, but from critics as well. The Hartford Courant calls A Christmas Carol at Hartford Stage, "the most sought after holiday experience going . . . It widens the eyes and hearts of children while redelivering adults to the most magical Christmases of their lives." The Waterbury Republican-American raves, "This production is the perfect reason for taking a break from holiday shopping and gift-wrapping. The sights, the songs, and the swirling dancers will lift your holiday spirit and entertain your whole family." The Meriden Record-Journal states, "Wilson's shimmering, spectral and spectacular vision of the Charles Dickens classic is a holiday must-see for Connecticut families. The Victorian tale of the miserly Scrooge who comes to know the true spirit of Christmas during one night of phantasmagorical revelations was never better told." Terry Teachout writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Outstandingly well-performed - a merry medley of trap doors, flying ghosts and sound effects that tickles the senses."

"Michael Wilson's adaptation of Dicken's classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge distills the essence of the holiday spirit in a series of sights, sounds and splendors that all but guarantee audiences leave bursting with a feeling of Christmas...Everywhere, Wilson plays up the 'ghost story' aspects of Dickens' tale. It is a great gift indeed to see a faithful, loving and brilliantly imagined version of a true classic." -Hartford Courant. "If Alfred Hitchcock had done A CHRISTMAS CAROL, he'd have done it exactly like this. Wilson's high-spirited and intelligent handling of the 1843 novella is scary, delightful, dazzling, and laugh-out-loud funny." -Hartford Advocate.

Critics have reserved special accolades for the production's Scrooge, the dynamic Bill Raymond, returning to the role for the twelfth time. The Hartford Courant states, "Bill Raymond, the spry, hilarious actor, tore the house down . . . It is clear he is having a ball, and the joy is infectious." The Hartford Advocate raves, "This A Christmas Carol is both scary and laugh-out-loud funny, thanks in no small part, to the way Bill Raymond plays Scrooge." The Meriden Record-Journal writes, "One could ask for no more perfect a Scrooge than the amazingly inventive Bill Raymond who throws himself body and soul into this role he owns at Hartford Stage." His credits include NBC's Ed, the Tony-winning Broadway revival of Gypsy with Patti LuPone, David Lindsay-Abaire's Wonder of the World opposite Sarah Jessica Parker, and the movies Michael Clayton with George Clooney, Dogville featuring Nicole Kidman, The Hurricane starring Denzel Washington, Summer of Sam, and The Ref. Mr. Raymond has also been seen at Hartford Stage in Eugene O'Neill's masterpiece, A Moon for the Misbegotten.

At student matinees and other selected performances, Gustave Johnson returns as Scrooge for the sixth year. Mr. Johnson has also appeared at Hartford Stage in Electra. His other credits include The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel on Broadway, To Kill a Mockingbird at the Huntington Theatre, and numerous productions at A.R.T. and other regional theatres across the country.

Tickets for A Christmas Carol are $24 - $69; children 12 and under save $10. A limited number of $10 "Ten Spot" tickets are also available for off-peak and Tuesday and Wednesday performances, making Hartford Stage among the most affordable entertainment options in Connecticut. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more by calling 860-520-7244. Tickets for students are $15 off the full price when purchased in advance. Students of Capital Community College may purchase one $10 ticket to A Christmas Carol upon presentation of their student ID at the Hartford Stage box office. All discount programs are subject to availability and cannot be combined with other discount offers. Hartford Stage has wheelchair accessible seating, assistive listening devices and other amenities. For more information, please call the Hartford Stage box office at 860-527-5151. Hartford Stage is located at 50 Church Street in downtown Hartford with parking located in the MAT Garage, directly adjacent to the theatre. The theatre is accessible from I-84 and I-91.




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