A timeless island classic | ‘A Christmas Carol’ is back

What happens when you let fear and greed instead of love and compassion steer your life?

You end up alone and full of regret, like Ebeneezer Scrooge.

Charles Dickens’ story that defines the holidays and has delighted Orcas audiences for decades is back for its seventh show at Orcas Center. “A Christmas Carol” with music and lyrics by Jim Bredouw and an adaption by Deborah Sparks will be on the main stage for five shows. This year’s director is Melinda Milligan

“My initial approach was to take an island classic and add some new twists,” she said. “How can we take something so wonderful and make it just a little different?”

Milligan opened the parts up to any gender, and Lesley Liddle was cast as Scrooge.

“It is the perfect role for her,” she said. “She is thrilled to be doing it.”

Milligan also says it’s been interesting to see the “different shades” of a female Scrooge.

“There are little nuances and surprises with the dialogue when it’s portrayed by a woman,” she said.

Another surprise: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future are being played inside 11-foot tall puppets. Professional puppeteer Bethany Marie, who recently moved to Orcas, has them out made out 95 percent recycled materials like Christmas wrapping paper and clear packing tape.

The production will run Dec. 13 to Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. with a matinee on Dec. 16 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $17 and $13 for students; $5 subsidized tickets are available in the box office. On Friday, Dec. 15, enjoy a meal presented by Matia Dinner Series and Doe Bay Wine Company for $75 in the Madrona Room.

In addition to Liddle, the cast includes Bella Schermerhorn as the Ghost of Christmas Past; Susan Osborn as Christmas Present; Tom Fiscus as Christmas Future and Marley; Holly King as Mrs. Crachit and Indy Zoeller as Bob Crachit with their children portrayed by Molina Stone, Soliana Halabisky, Ella Weaver, TJ Liblik and Seffa Halabisky; and John Mazzarella as narrator. Other performers are Aaimee Johnson, Kathy Collister, Lisa Spesard, Malia Michelle, Lili Pritchard, Karis Comrie, Trevor Wareham, Margie Doyle, Annette Mazzarella, Kayleigh Horton, Anita Castle, Dave Roseberry, Pat Ayers, Tony Lee, Robert Hall, Grace Zwilling, Suzanne Gropper, Chris Dalla Santa, Kristin Dalla Santa, Stephie Mac, Leah Jenson, Linda Ellsworth, Margot Van Gelder, Riley Heins, Brita Brahce, Brenda Loney, Jim Shaffer-Bauck, Kathy Morris, Kim Wareham, Annie Moss Moore, Janice Williams and Evan Erskine.

Milligan also recruited local musicians Tim Jensen, Dimitri Stankevich, Paris Wilson, Jeff Zbornik and Dave Zoeller to perform live music during the production.

Backstage crew is sound technician Jake Perrine, light and set designer Robert Hall, stage manager Linda Sanders and costume creator Luann Pamatian.

For Milligan, who has been involved as an actor and director at the Grange for years, this is her first time directing at Orcas Center.

“Audiences can expect some fun surprises but we’re really emphasizing the joy of community,” said Milligan. “I hope people will come with their friends and neighbors, enjoy some great music and be together.”

How it all began

Bredouw, who is serving as musical director for this year’s show, has a deep emotional connection to the story of “A Christmas Carol.”

In addition to the many Orcas performances he’s been involved with, he has seen it live across the country and on screen, and it always brings him to tears.

“It makes me sob every time. It touches me every time,” he said. “And it couldn’t possibly be more relevant than it is now … it’s about the futility of self-interest versus the common good.”

Bredouw developed the concept of presenting the beloved book as a musical production in 1999 after he founded the Funhouse Commons, a community center for children.

“‘A Christmas Carol’ single-handedly taught me about thinking outside of myself,” he said. “The Funhouse wouldn’t exist without it.”

As a musician who wrote original compositions for commercials, Bredouw was new to theatre. But he wrote the score and a handful of songs for the play, and Sparks, who at the time was theatre productions director at Orcas Center, wrote new scenes to accompany some of the music.

After performing it in 1999 and 2000, the two decided to produce the play every three years, as it’s such a huge production. The very first Scrooge, Gabriel Olmsted, is traveling from his home in Anacortes to see the newest rendition. He played the character for a decade.

Bredouw was last involved in a production in 2009, but when Milligan asked Bredouw to be the musical director, he said yes – primarily because of Orcas vocal coach and director Grace McCune. He was inspired by her ability to transform island singers for large community productions.

“With her show ‘Across the Universe,’ I saw how you can make singers better with a lot of hard work,” he said.

Bredouw played all the instruments in the original recordings but there were additional compositions swirling in his head. So in 2006, he hired 40 members from the Seattle Symphony and with Martin Lund conducting, recorded new tracks for three major scenes, which will be presented this year.

“They sound like a Broadway show,” said Bredouw.