What if Dr. Seuss instead of Charles Dickens had written “A Christmas Carol”?
That’s what playwright Peter Bloedel explored in “A Suessified Christmas Carol,” where the story’s plot stays the same, but the rhythm has changed.
“The lines are written in verses, and they end in rhymes,” says Ami Clouatre Johnson, co-director for Ascension Community Theatre’s production of Bloedel’s play.
The play, the theater’s 14th annual children’s production, opens Friday and features a cast of 60, ranging in age from 5 to 19.
“We’ve divided the cast into an A group and B group,” co-director Christian Watts says. “The A group will be the lead actors for two performances, then they’ll be the supporting actors for the lead actors in the B group for the other two performances. We had so many kids who have been in our Christmas programs in the past few years, and they were ready to step up. We wanted to give them that chance.”
Evan Hebert, 15, and Sofia Lavidalie, 13, are playing the main character, known simply as “The Scrooge.” They each had to learn 215 lines for their roles.
“It’s a lot of work for them, but they’ve risen to the task,” Watts says.
“The main thing is getting all of the kids focused on the play at the beginning,” Johnson adds. “We usually find roles for all of the kids who audition, and getting them focused is really a challenge for us at the start. But then they all start to see the play materialize, and it all comes together.”
And while 60 kids will take the stage, even more youngsters are involved in the technical side of the production.
“We have a 9-year-old girl who is going to be operating our lighting system,” Watts says. “She’ll be supervised by an adult, but that’s what she wanted to do. We’ll also have other kids doing backstage work. They want to learn the other parts of what it takes to stage a play.”
“A Seussified Christmas Carol” tells Scrooge’s story with zoot fruited juices and binka bird geese and through such characters as Scrooge’s nephew, Bed-headed Fred, and Timmy Loo Hoo, a Seuss verison of Tiny Tim.
“The only problem is that we had all girls auditioning for Timmy Loo Hoo, so we had to change that character to Tammy Loo Hoo,” Johnson says.
Costumes will be a mix of Dickens and Seuss — traditional 19th century England, yet colorful.
“We want to get that Dr. Seuss funkiness into it,” Watts says.
“And we’re using the set from ACT’s recent production of ‘The Addams Family,’” Johnson says. “We generally look at the show prior to ours and see if there’s something we can use.”
The set seems perfect for a Seussical kind of Christmas — two stories of an older house connected by a double stairway. Scenes could play out in the rooms at the top.
“We’ll modify it a little and paint it different colors,” Watts says. “It’s going to work great.”