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Published: Thursday, 11/29/2012 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledo Repertoire Theatre ready for challenge of upholding classic's tradition

BY JULIE NJAIM
BLADE STAFF WRITER

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Director Debra Ross Calabrese challenges herself to maintain an annual tradition while breathing new life into the Toledo Repertoire Theatre's 26th season of A Christmas Carol opening Friday at the Valentine Theatre.

"I really need to keep it special, keep it outstanding, keep the quality up," said the veteran director who has been involved with the show since 1987.

The cast has been whittled to 72 from last year's 130. "We really took the best of the best. Vocally it's just beautiful; so strong and rich. The acting is just right there. I feel talent-wise it's going to be a great show this year. It made my job very easy," she said.

The dialogue continues to be revised and staging changes have been made. Calabrese uses Dickens' actual script with his production notes from 1859 to keep the integrity of the beloved classic intact.

"The town is full of villagers and it's gorgeous. The voices fill the stage. The acoustics are so beautiful," she said.

Paul Causman returns for his 10th year playing the curmudgeonly miser Ebenezer Scrooge. "The character Scrooge is a wonderful character for an actor to play because he goes through such an extreme conversion," he said.

He never tires of the role and finds it easy to keep it fresh, he said.

Paul Causman, left, is Ebenezer Scrooge and Barbara Barkan is the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Rep's 'A Christmas Carol.' Paul Causman, left, is Ebenezer Scrooge and Barbara Barkan is the Ghost of Christmas Past in the Rep's 'A Christmas Carol.'
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"First of all the richness of Dickens' language. You can read it time after time and feel like it's the first time you've read it or spoken it. Whenever you go back to a role, particularly an iconic role like Ebenezer Scrooge, you bring your own experience to it. Every year goes by and you have new experiences. The literature is so rich and you see new things in it because you have a new perspective."

Casting changes also impact Causman's performance. "They have new interpretations of what they're doing when they play it against me so that changes it, too," Causman said.

Among the cast are Barbara Barkan, Eric Hillenbrand, and Tom McQuaid as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future, respectively. Heath Huber plays Bob Cratchit and George Mancy will portray Tiny Tim. The show's producer is Scott Heuerman, and the full orchestra will be directed by David Jex.

Causman equates seeing this Dickens tale to another Christmas tradition honored from one generation to the next.

"It's like a Christmas tree. Why do we like having a Christmas tree year after year? Because it's like an old friend. Because these Christmas stories have such a universal appeal and profound message. Now you add to that the spectacular dancing and singing and the beautiful sets and lighting and costumes," he said.

It's custom to see familiar faces in the audience, Causman said, "because they were in it or saw it as a young person and because as an adult they're coming back and bringing their own children"

The Rep continues to accept non-perishable food donations at this production and all shows this season. Its goal is to donate 2,000 pounds of non-perishable food items to area food banks and soup kitchens.

"A Christmas Carol" will be performed by Toledo Repertoire Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Valentine Theatre, 400 N. Superior St. Tickets are $27 for adults, $22 for seniors, and $17 for children. Information: Valentine Theatre Box Office, 419-242-2787 or toledorep.org. Note: The Dickens Singers are available for hire to sing at holiday functions.

Contact Julie Njaim at jnjaim@theblade.com.



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