Friday, Oct 19, 2018
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Dickens classic offers surprises


Cassie Dzienny, Paul Manger dance in `A Christmas Carol.'


The Toledo Repertoire Theatre last night opened its 20th production of A Christmas Carol, and the audience may have been surprised at the turns the show has taken.

The turns and twists and twirls and lifts and leaps.

The show now features nine major dance numbers, which delights choreographer Debra Calabrese.

With the assistance of Perrysburg Symphony members, the show runs through Sunday in the Stranahan Theater.

“The evolution of this is so cool,” Calabrese says in a telephone interview.

“This is the 14th production I've worked on,” she says. “The first year, there was one little section of a song during the Fezziwig party scene - about six measures, I think it was - where the people sort of twirled around. It wasn't a conscious decision, but as I sat there and watched the show each year, I could spot places where we could dance.”

She cites the appearance of the Ghost of Christmas Past as an example. In previous years, that character has come in through the window accompanied by a blast of snow or a few flakes, depending on how well the fans were working.

“When I saw the snow falling, I thought, `This needs swirls and twirls,'” Calabrese says. “The music in this particular scene is very abstract and balletic, so I dressed a dancer in a long white lyrical skirt to signify snow and she, along with about 20 little girl snowflakes, ushers in Christmas Past.”

About the scene toward the beginning when the male cast members lift mugs and sing “The Wassail Song,” Calabrese says she has often wondered how the men got those mugs. “This year, I have 10 barmaids give the guys their mugs of ale, and it turns into a big rollicking party in the middle of the town square.”

Calabrese promises that the Charles Dickens' story about the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge discovering the joys of Christmas is intact.

“When you have musical theater, the music and the dancing should continue the story line,” she says.

Other big scenes include the Cratchits' shopping trip for their meager Christmas feast. One of the children admires a doll in a toy shop, and some dolls come out and dance to demonstrate what's in the child's imagination. A Gypsy dances to “Good King Wenceslas.” The party at the home of Scrooge's nephew, Fred, and Fred's wife, Millie, now includes a waltz to the tune of “Greensleeves.”

“With a cast of 147, it's such a rich play,” Calabrese says. “I just think it's the ultimate performance.”

“A Christmas Carol,” presented by the Toledo Repertoire Theatre, with music by members of the Perrysburg Symphony, runs through Sunday in the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Full performances are at 8 p.m. today and tomorrow and 5:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets range from $10 to $30 with discounts for seniors and students. An abridged performance geared to young children is scheduled at 2:30 p.m. Sunday; tickets for it are $10. Information: 419-474-1333 or 419-381-8851.

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