Players' Ring Premieres Adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL

Players' Ring Premieres Adaptation of A CHRISTMAS CAROL

As a holiday tradition, Christopher Savage of Exeter and his family sit around the dinner table each year reading aloud from "A Christmas Carol," the iconic tale by Charles Dickens. It is no wonder, then, that when the Player's Ring asked Savage to write an adaptation of this emotional holiday story, he chose to incorporate more language from the 19th Century British author.

"I love the novel and when I was given the opportunity to direct, I wanted to bring it closer to the original source material, to the original Dickens novel," said Savage, an actor who first began his adaptation several years ago.

The complete Savage adaptation of "A Christmas Carol" will be shown for the first time Nov. 30 through Dec. 23 at the Players' Ring in Portsmouth.

For the Players' Ring, this is the culmination of more than two decades of performances of the "A Christmas Carol." Based on Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, the classic holiday story was adapted in 1996 by Players' Ring founder Gary Newton and has been performed every year since then on the Marcy Street stage.

Whitney Smith of Northwood, who directed "The Christmas Carol" two years ago when the script had been partly adapted by Savage, agreed to direct it again this year on the condition that Savage complete his adaptation.

"I thought it would be exciting if I could get Christopher to do that second act," said Smith, a a well-known local actress and director who was ready to take this on again when Savage agreed to finish his adaptation.

"A Christmas Carol" tells the story of the hardened miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, who receives the rarest of Christmas gifts when the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and Future take him on an overnight journey to see who he truly is.

In casting for this year's show, Smith invited veterans and newcomers to audition for parts. This led to several new actors joining veterans to the stage.

Scrooge will be played by Roland Goodbody for the third time, and Spencer Batemen, 15, will return to play not just Tiny Tim, as he has done for five years before, but also as Boy Ebenezer.

Smith, mother of two young children and owner of Cavarretta Gardens of Northwood, said she chose to cast by personality and talent, not gender, and as a result several women have been cast as men.

"We are focusing on of course the story but also that warm feeling that comes with Christmas and the magical nature of the story," Smith said. "We are making sure that it's family friendly and that people of all ages will be coming in and enjoying the show."

Savage, though not appearing in this production, has directed and performed in the Players' Ring version of the show several times as well as in other productions of "A Christmas Carol."

Savage, a robotics analyst, adapted the tale to his own vision after being invited to direct in 2014. The Players' Ring agreed, but he only finished part of it before time ran out and rehearsals began. When Smith asked him to finish it this year he agreed.

It is actually Savage's brother, Eric, who holds the Dickens dinner each year, getting the four siblings and their parents together from various Seacoast towns and assigning parts to be read out loud. Now he will get to see the influence of his family dinner table on the Players' Ring stage.

"I'm excited to see how it actually flows and what Whitney has done with it," Savage said. " Im confident she will do well with it."

"A Christmas Carol" will be performed Nov. 30 to Dec. 23 at the Players' Ring Theatre at 105 Marcy St. in Portsmouth with showtimes 7 pm Thursdays, 8 pm Fridays, 3 and 8 pm Saturdays, and 3 and 7 pm Sundays. Tickets are $18 with discounts for students, seniors and Players' Ring members. Tickets can be purchased at playersring.org or call 603-436-8123 to make a reservation.

The Players' Ring, founded in 1992, provides affordable theater space to local production companies with an emphasis on original works.

Photo: Roland Goodbody returns to play Eben Ezer Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" Nov. 30 to Dec. 23 at the Players' Ring in Portsmouth. Tickets can be purchased at playersring.org or call 603-436-8123 to make a reservation.

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