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Published: 12/14/2006

Harvest Theatre gives Dickens a fresh spin

BY NANCIANN CHERRY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Tiny Tim (Mary Wagner), Bob Cratchit (Seth Shaffer), and Mrs. Bob Cratchit (Kim Yost) perform during a dress rehearsal of Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge. From left, Tiny Tim (Mary Wagner), Bob Cratchit (Seth Shaffer), and Mrs. Bob Cratchit (Kim Yost) perform during a dress rehearsal of Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge.
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You can view it as an antidote to the commercialized sentimentality of the season or a complement to the classics, but either way, Harvest Theatre's A Twisted Christmas should be a lot of fun.

The Toledo-based semi-professional troupe is offering two shows for holiday audiences. Performing in repertory (on alternate nights) are Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge by Christopher Durang and Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol by Tom Mula.

"I'm going a little crazy right now," said Harvest founder Bill Quinlan, who is directing Marley, which has a preview performance (sort of like the final dress rehearsal) tomorrow. "I just thought it would be fun and something a little different."

Quinlan says Harvest, in its second year, wouldn't have had the resources to mount two shows last year, but "some good people have come on board," giving the troupe more flexibility.

Mrs. Cratchit, directed by Derek Hansen, who has performed and directed for the Village Players, has its preview performance tonight.

Both shows were inspired by Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, but Mrs. Cratchit turns the story on its ear, Quinlan said.

Commissioned by Pittsburgh's City Theatre, the tilted look at the Cratchit family premiered in 2002. It has a depressed Mrs. Cratchit locking her children in the root cellar after she downs a little too much grog and deciding to jump off the London Bridge. Christopher Rawson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called it "a rollicking parody that caters to our desire to have our traditional holiday and mock it, too."

Heading the large cast are Kim Yost as Mrs. Cratchit, Seth Shaffer as her husband, Bob, Ken Weiland as Scrooge, and local slam poet Natural as the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, who don't have their timing quite right.

Oh, and the show's a musical.

Marley is much more traditional, Quinlan said, and it's a whole lot more work for his cast.

That would be Tom Hofbauer, who plays all 16 characters.

A veteran of the Around the Bend Players, a local improv comedy troupe, Hofbauer portrayed the fire chief in Harvest's September production of The Guys.

In Marley, the late partner of Ebenezer Scrooge is given a chance to win his release from the chains that bind him if he can turn Scrooge from a money-grubber to a man with love and charity in his heart. It's going to take a miracle, but Marley finds a little help along the way.

The show is a funny and heartwarming look at one of Dickens' minor characters, Quinlan said, adding that Hofbauer has told him it's one of the toughest tasks he's ever undertaken - and one of the most satisfying.

Shows are scheduled as follows:

Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge: The preview ($10 tickets) is at 8 tonight. It opens at 8 p.m. Saturday with additional performances at 7 p.m. Wednesday; and 8 p.m. Dec. 22, 28, 30, and 31 (closing).

Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol: The preview is at 8 p.m. tomorrow. It opens at 3 p.m. Sunday with additional performances at 8 p.m. Dec. 21, 23, and 29; 7 p.m. Dec. 27; and 3 p.m. Dec. 31 (closing).

Harvest Theatre of Toledo presents "A Twisted Christmas" Saturday through Dec. 31 in Lincoln Hall of Collingwood Presbyterian Church, 2108 Collingwood Blvd. at Floyd Street. Secure parking is available in the lot off Floyd. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for seniors and students, with information on special pricing, including "pay what you can night," and post-show discussions listed on Harvest's Web site at www.harvesttheatre.com. Information: 800-838-3006.

The national tour of I Can't Stop Loving You, a celebration of the music of Ray Charles, is scheduled at 7 p.m. Sunday in Lima.

A cast of 20 singers and dancers and a 12-piece on-stage orchestra will re-create Charles' greatest hits, including "Hit the Road, Jack," "What'd I Say," and "Unchain My Heart."

"I Can't Stop Loving You" opens at 7 p.m. Sunday in Crouse Performance Hall of Veterans Memorial Civic & Convention Center, 7 Town Square, Lima. Tickets are $45. Information: 419-224-1552 or 888-377-0641.

Contact Nanciann Cherry at: ncherry@theblade.com or 419-724-6130.



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