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Published: Thursday, 12/7/2006

The Rep's 'A Christmas Carol' opens tomorrow

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Paul Causman as Ebenezer Scrooge hoists Alexander Keck as Tiny Tim. Paul Causman as Ebenezer Scrooge hoists Alexander Keck as Tiny Tim.
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It was written in 1843 to pay off a debt. It was envisioned as a morality play rather than a holiday classic. It sold 6,000 copies in its first week and single-handedly changed the notion of Christmas traditions.

It, of course, was Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and its popularity, so evident 163 years ago, has not waned.

Just ask Gloria Moulopoulos, who is knee-deep in the chaos of the Toledo Repertoire Theatre's annual production, which debuts tomorrow.

Moulopoulos, artistic director of the Rep as well as director of the holiday show, says that in the summer, when she starts thinking about A Christmas Carol, she has to force her enthusiasm.

"But it's a unique event that families respond to," she says. "People tell me the holiday just doesn't seem complete until they see the show."

Or until they work on it.

Moulopoulos calls A Christmas Carol "a living thing." One year, she says, she had three grandmothers, three mothers, and several children all working on the production.

And every year, she says she watches the young girls in the cast, wide-eyed and excited by the beautiful costumes and dance scenes at Fezziwig's celebration and the party at Fred's house, just aching to be part of the fun. Then she looks at the dancers and recalls when they were little and wide-eyed, waiting to grow into those roles.

A Christmas Carol cast members Brian Rodabaugh and Kathy Cupp, left, Zachary Lahey and Brandi Shepard, center, and Grant Drager and Shakira Adams rehearse for this weekend s performances of the Toledo Repertoire Theatre s annual production in the Stranahan Theater. A Christmas Carol cast members Brian Rodabaugh and Kathy Cupp, left, Zachary Lahey and Brandi Shepard, center, and Grant Drager and Shakira Adams rehearse for this weekend s performances of the Toledo Repertoire Theatre s annual production in the Stranahan Theater.
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"Then you can't help but be excited," she says.

A Christmas Carol tells the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, a businessman in Victorian England who lives to make money. Over the years, he has channeled all of his energy, time, and focus on accumulating wealth, and he resents anything that takes away from that goal, whether it is paying money for coal for the fire or giving to charitable causes, or spending time with friends.

Over the course of one night, thanks to three ghosts, he discovers what he has missed and finds redemption.

Paul Causman, playing the key role of Scrooge for the fourth consecutive year, says he finds his enthusiasm for the annual production in the language of Dickens' classic. "It's so rich, you find new meanings every year," he says, especially when he adds in his life experiences.

"I did the show years ago," he says, "and the way I understand the role now at 49 is way different than when I was 29."

Causman's relationship to the Rep's A Christmas Carol started long before he began playing Scrooge. As the Rep's artistic director in the 1980s, he was the first to cast Jim Rudes as the miser, and over the years, it became his signature role. After an ailing Rudes gave up the role in 2002 (he died in 2004), Causman stepped in, and the actor says it has become sort of a home.

"I love seeing old friends in the cast and meeting new ones," he says. "For such a large show, it has a really intimate feel."

And the show is large, with a cast of about 120, Moulopoulos says.

Along with Causman, A Christmas Carol stars Jason Langlois as Bob Cratchit, Jeff Bell as Jacob Marley, Zachary Lahey as Fred, and Kate Argow, Eric Hillabrand, and Mark Lindberg as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Brandi Shepard has the dual duties as choreographer and playing Nell.

And Tiny Tim is played by Alexander Keck.

"He came out of nowhere and captured all our hearts," Moulopoulos says, implying that she expects audiences to have a similar reaction.

The Toledo Repertoire Theatre presents "A Christmas Carol" at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $25 from the Stranahan box office, 419-381-8851.

Lu White directs the Monroe Community Players in The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, based on the book by Barbara Robinson.

Opening tomorrow, the play pits the Bradley family, whose mother, Grace, inherits the church Christmas pageant after the veteran director breaks her leg, against the Herdman kids, the six most incorrigible siblings in town. Learning that free refreshments are offered during the rehearsals, the Herdmans, led by the smart and sassy Imogene, decide that they're taking all the plum parts.

Initially helpless in the face of the Herdman horde, Grace, with the reluctant help of husband, Bob, and kids Beth and Charlie, is determined to make the pageant, Herdmans and all, something for the community to embrace.

Among the cast of about 30 are Melissa Stewart and Sean Farley as Grace and Bob Bradley, Maggie Williams and Nathan Stanifer as Imogene and Ralph Herdman, and Jeff Finley as the Reverend Hopkins,

"The Best Christmas Pageant Ever," presented by the Monroe Community Players, is scheduled at 8 p.m. tomorrow and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday in Meyer Theater of the La-Z-Boy Center at Monroe County Community College, 1555 South Raisinville Rd., Monroe. Tickets are $15 for adults and $12 for seniors and children. Information: 734-241-7900 or 734-384-4127.

Contact Nanciann Cherry: at ncherry@theblade.com

or 419-724-6130.



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