A Christmas Carol, ‘rock’ style

Adaptation of Dickens’ classic Friday at Struthers Library Theatre

A Christmas Carol: A Rock Musical is an epic, rock musical adaptation of Charles Dicken’s classic tale of redemption through ghostly intervention.

The show is so large that when it hits the stage at Struthers Library Theatre this Friday at 8 p.m., it will featured the combined talents of 60 students, four directors, two vocal instructors, four choreographers, 14 musicians, two student interns and over 100 technical support volunteers.

“We knew we had to reach out to our community to make this show possible. It is humbling that so many people in Warren County – and beyond – have come together to make this show great,” said A Christmas Carol director, Charles Gray. “We are indebted to those who have given of their time and talents and are truly blessed to witness the results of their contributions.”

And the results are incredible. The sets, costumes, performances and technical work of the show are top notch.

“The vocal performances in this show would not have been possible without vocal instructors Cathy Hayes, Kevin Hunt and Danielle Nebinski,” said Gray. “SLT Academy is about education and skill development paired with performance. These instructors have encouraged our students to higher heights of vocal quality, technique and tone. It is a privilege to watch them work and see the students’ gifts grow.”

APT vocal instructor Kevin Hunt was responsible for an arrangement of Cyndi Lauper’s True Colours, which features intricate harmonies. “True Colours symbolizes the changes that Ebeneezer Scrooge undergoes when visited by three ghosts,” said Hunt. “The piece is challenging rhythmically and vocally, but that is what makes it fun. I greatly enjoy working with the youth of our community helping them grow in their theatrical skills. I have always loved theatre and always wished there had been a program like this when I was growing up, so it is a joy to be able to work for SLT Academy.”

Music teacher Denise Pearson is bringing even more beauty to True Colours by arranging a hand bell accompaniment. “I had never arranged music for bells,” said Pearson. I believe that “music is a lifelong activity and I did this to support the kids.” Pearson brought along fellow bell-ringers Linda Ross, Donna Trubic, Colleen Witmer to perform in the show, all of whom appear in gorgeous period dress. “We are excited to be part of such creativity,” said Pearson. “We also love our dresses.”

Joining the bell ringers in live performance will be Khlare Bracken on cello, Cathy Hayes on violin, Judi Danielson on flute, Marcus Bonavita on drums and Corey Ganoe on acoustic guitar and vocals. Musicians Joe Glarner, Aaron Reinard, Jack Hemick and Mikki Gifford have contributed musical direction and amazing recorded tracks for the production.

Along with the music, comes dancing. Dance instructor professional for the APT program, Molly Dies, has created a show-stopping intricate weave of 1800s hundreds ball dance and modern elements to tell the story of Ebenezer Scrooge falling in love with Belle Lockhart at the Fezziwig Christmas ball. “The ballroom dancing of the Fezziwigs was a fun picture to create,” said Dies. “My goal is to match the storyline with movement and have the kids feel comfortable on stage and look good doing what they are doing.” Twelve of Molly’s Dance Express students will also be performing at the ball as Fezziwig’s daughters as they high step to ‘Beggarman Jig’.

“With all the praise Charles Dickens heaped on the dancing prowess of Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig, we knew their dance had to be over the top,” said Charles Gray. “Professional choreographer Angela Marando-Taylor volunteered her time to work with Academy students while visiting locally last summer. “We knew we needed to create a signature piece and Angela gave us just that,” said Gray. “The Fezziwig dance to Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ combines the passion of flamenco and bull fighting with an historic French dance, the gavotte.

Scrooge’s moment of redemption had to be equally grand. The dance takes place in a graveyard where Ebenezer has just seen his own name upon a headstone. He decides to “make that change” to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man In The Mirror’, surrounded by Want, Ignorance and a Thriller-worthy dance posse of ghosts. ‘Man In The Mirror’ was choreographed by life-long dancer and choreographer Dawn Sears. “I really liked the concept of this production and was thrilled to be asked to participate,” said Sears. “I wanted to portray Ebenezer as a man reflecting on his life and looking forward to the changes he would make to better himself. This has been such a wonderful experience and I have been inspired by the hard work and dedication of these kids. The outcome has proven to be even better than my original vision.”

When APT student Peyton Wilson told her instructor she wanted to choreograph, the answer was instantaneous and positive. Wilson is a dancer and a gymnast who got a chance to choreograph some songs in Warren Player’s recent production of Mary Poppins. “My thoughts for the choreography came as we continued to practice the dances,” said Wilson. I kept in mind each person’s unique talents and wanted to access them in the dance. They would practice what they knew, and something would come to mind, and we would all piece the parts together.”

The experience, expertise and enthusiasm brought to A Christmas Carol: A Rock Musical by this handful of amazing instructors and volunteers is typical of all those who have given their time and love to the production. “Everyday I am awed by the work being done for our new musical,” said Gray. SLT Academy staging its first full-scale musical is a significant step for the Academy and Struthers Library Theatre. We are honored to be taking this step with such support from our community, as we have every step in the history of our 135-year-old theatre.

A Christmas Carol: A Rock Musical will be performed one night only on Friday, Dec. 1 at 8 p.m., with a debut screening of “The Making of A Christmas Carol” by student intern Sean Shoobridge beginning at 7:30. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors and free for children under 5. They are on sale at Struthers Library Theatre office and at the door.

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