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Updated: 2nd December 2019 21:18 Calgary

Theatre Calgary presents a fresh take on a traditional tale with A Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol is an annual tradition at Theatre Calgary, and this year the timeless story has been reinvented with a new script by local playwright Jeffrey Simon Brown.

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Stephen Hair plays Scrooge with all-new sets, new staging, costumes and all-Calgary cast

From left: Graham Percy as Bob Cratchit and Stephen Hair as Scrooge in Theatre Calgary's 2019 production of A Christmas Carol. (Trudie Lee)

This year, Theatre Calgary has a new adaptation of its annual Christmas production A Christmas Carol that might surprise theatre-goers who are expecting something more traditional.

A Christmas Carol has been reinvented with a new script by local playwright Jeffrey Simon Brown.

"It's still Scrooge, it's still Tiny Tim. All the familiar characters and situations are there, but what Jeffrey has done has infused it with just a real fresh sensibility," Stafford Arima, artistic director at Theatre Calgary, told the Calgary Homestretch.

"It takes place in 1843 in Dickensian London. But the dialogue and the writing has just kind of opened up this story in a really exciting way."

Theatre Calgary has been doing A Christmas Carol for more than three decades and there have been numerous adaptations. But as Arima told the Calgary Homestretch, subscribers and patrons were itching for something new.

"He wasn't afraid of staying true to the Charles Dickens adaptation, right? The true Charles Dickens version, but lots of humour, lots of heart. And when you get humour and heart and a holiday theme altogether it just jumps off the page," Arima said.

Brown, who is a Stephen Harper Emerging Artist Award winner, had his winning script chosen from more than 25 entries, in a blind-submission process.

Stafford Arima, artistic director of Theatre Calgary, says Calgary audiences are ready for a refreshed version of A Christmas Carol. (Justin Pennel/CBC)

Not only is Brown local, but so is the entire cast. "We have over 25 people on that stage, all from Calgary, and half of the cast is brand new to Christmas Carol," Arima said, adding that there are eight local children in the cast this year.

"All brand new sets, brand new costumes, brand new props, projections, lighting, everything," he said. "So everything that is going to be on that stage has been completely created for this brand new production regardless of the adaptation."

Arima believes that this year, the timeless play really speaks to Calgarians going through hard times.

"There is a universal theme and I think the way the world is right now and the way Calgary is right now, and the way everyone is right now I think a story that has hope and that has inspiration and that has transformation, is the perfect medicine for anyone that might be dealing with being in the doldrums, especially during the holiday season."

Audiences ready for new version

Despite Calgary's struggling economy, Arima said ticket sales are robust.

"I think what we've realized with A Christmas Carol is that it has become a kind of Calgary tradition," he said. "Families come, they might not come to see another show at Theatre Calgary but they come to see A Christmas Carol. And because of the interest in a brand new production … ticket sales are kind of going through the roof."

Stephen Hair will play Scrooge for the 26th consecutive time.

"I think it's been quite exciting for Stephen, because he has been with this show for so long to now have a brand new script, a brand new design, brand new everything. It brings a lot of joy to him and I think people are going to experience a Scrooge that they're familiar with because it's Stephen Hair, but a different Scrooge because it's a new adaptation," Arima said.

For Arima, no matter the adaptation, the story remains a classic.

"I think everyone at some point understands what it means to have a transformation within one's self and Scrooge grows through an immense transformation," he said. "And so when we're able to see a character like Scrooge go from perhaps a dark world to a light world, and to find joy in Christmas, I think it brings a lot of joy to all of our hearts."

A Christmas Carol runs until Dec. 28 at Max Bell Theatre.


With files from the Calgary Homestretch

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