Staples Players Give Familiar “Carol” A Fresh Twist

The pandemic — and longer, darker days — have moved most entertainment indoors.

Streaming movies and board games are fun. But they can get old.

Somehow though, “A Christmas Carol” never goes out of fashion. Now there’s a new/old way to enjoy Charles Dickens’ 177-year-old classic: a live radio show.

Staples Players livestreams the ghost story this Sunday (December 13, 6 p.m.). It’s the 4th in a series of shows replacing the fall musical. The first 3 — “The Wizard of Oz,” “Pride and Prejudice” and “It’s a Wonderful Life” — were smashes.

“People sat together, relaxed, ate dinner and listened in,” says Players director David Roth. “They were totally into it. We’re thrilled we can introduce everyone to the pleasure of listening to stories.”

Great enthusiasm — by listeners and actors alike — impelled Roth and co-director Kerry Long to keep going. But in keeping with their longtime goal of stretching both their cast and audience, there’s a twist to the 1843 story: Ebenezer Scrooge is played by a female

“These days, there’s a big movement in theater and film to look at different types of people for roles,” Roth explains.

“Samantha Webster was a show-stopper last year as Rosie in ‘Mamma Mia!’ She did a great job as the mother in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ She was the strongest person to audition. She’s a natural.”

Samantha Webster starred in “Mamma Mia!” This year, she serves as Staples Players president. (Photo/Kerry Long)

Webster and her entire cast are enjoying rehearsals — virtually. Due to ever-changing COVID restrictions, Roth and Long decided to do the entire show remotely. Each actor — and the tech crew sound effects — logs in from home.

It’s not easy. But it worked well with “Wonderful Life.” It’s life — and live theater — during COVID.

TPlayers have fun emphasizing the ghost story aspects of “A Christmas Carol.” That’s how Dickens wrote it — and it fits in with what Roth says was a mid-19th century tradition: telling ghost stories at holiday time.

“We’re keeping the ghosts as scary as we can make them,” he promises. “We’re not Disney-fying this.”

The cast is also spending time polishing their British and Cockney accents. “They’re quite good,” Roth notes.

Players’ costume crew designed mock ups for “A Christmas Carol.” They did not create the actual costumes — it’s a radio show, after all — but it was an important exercise for when they return to a real stage. Above: a “mood board” by Ella Grace Worraker.

As with previous Players’ shows, this production will include “old-time” radio show ads for area businesses.

“We encourage Westport listeners to shop and eat locally,” Roth says. “We’re glad we can help support the town merchants who have always supported us.”

Of course, those ads will be heard by many people far from Westport. That’s the magic of a radio show — in our new COVID-and-digital age.

(“A Christmas Carol” will be livestreamed at 6 p.m. this Sunday, December 13, at www.wwwptfm.org. The show is not funded by the Westport schools’ budget. Donations are welcome; click here.) 

3 responses to “Staples Players Give Familiar “Carol” A Fresh Twist

  1. Looking forward to the show this Sunday!

  2. Robert Mitchell

    A female Scrooge! Not the first gender shift. A Wonderful Life’s angel Clarence transmogrified into Clarisse.

  3. Cant wait for this!

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