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An adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol by Dr. Andrew Harris

McKinney Repertory Theatre

Director / Producer - Jake Correll
Stage Manager - Lizzie Farrar
Organist - Bob Whiteman
Costumes - Cindy Darling, Nicole Holbert
Lighting Design - Darren Wade
Light Board Operator - Cher Shinavar
Sound Board Operator - Rene Shinavar


Ebenezer Scrooge - Scott Winchester
Bob Cratchit - Greg Vestal
Dickens - Bob Zak
Charitable Gent/Businessman - Roger Hogarth
Charitable Gent/Old Joe - Dusty Loeser
Fred - Robby Gemaehlich
Jacob Marley - Jacob Correll
Ghost of Christmas Past - Riley McRae
Ghost of Christmas Present - Xander McRae
Boy Scrooge - Caitlin Tolley
Little Fan/Belinda Cratchit - Caitlin Tolley
Young Scrooge - Nick Blaskovich/Jacob Robbins
Belle - Patti Hogarth/Layne Carter
Mr. Fezziwig/Ghost of Christmas Future - Mike Chancey
Mrs. Fezziwig - Rosanna Leahy
Dick Wilkins/Jack/Businessman - Paul Christian
Mary - Lizzie Farrar
Topper/Businessman - Trent Lundgren
Beth - Brianna Leahy
Meg - Elizabeth Scott
Mrs. Cratchit - Nicole Holbert
Peter Cratchit - Tyler Rogness
Sally Cratchit - Hannah Loeser
Martha Cratchit - Heather Moffett
Ned Cratchit/Undertaker's boy - Logan Holbert
Tiny Tim - Wes Holbert/Riley Niksich
Mrs. Dilber - Pat Chancey

Reviewed Performance: 11/27/2011

Reviewed by Danny Macchietto, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Walking into the McKinney Performing Arts Center to see McKinney Repertory Theatre Company's stage production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, I admit that I had a pre-conceived notion of what the experience would be like.

There is one of two scenarios that I expect from this oft performed literary classic: the staging will either treat the material as a secular pageant of overly saccharine Christmas joy, or the audience will be exposed to a presentation of reverent sincerity to the true dark nature of the original novella. Dr. Andrew Harris' adaptation of A Christmas Carol, with direction by Jake Correll, presents a third option that until now, I had yet to see or consider? A Christmas Carol as family tradition.

This family tradition consists of a relatively new legacy that started in 2006, when the McKinney Performing Arts Center originally opened. The director notes inform the audience that the stage is full of grandparents, grandkids, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters of various combinations. Director Jake Correll labels his show as McKinney Repertory Theatre's "ultimate community theatre production". Mr. Correll will personally inform me later that every person that has auditioned for this play has been given a part. This most recent production's cast is full of several people that perform in the production annually since the first adaptation in 2006. For some, "it is the only show a few cast members have ever done."

As patrons enter the restored courthouse theater they will be able to listen to the charming, melodramatic, silent film-era sounds of organist Bob Whiteman. The vintage organ is one of three that provide accompaniment in a theater in the U.S., and the only one in North Texas. The music juxtaposes nicely with the black & white projecting scrim as a backdrop to the stage; the calligraphy font lettering of the play's title creates a bit of curious nostalgia from this timeless effect.

This warm and inviting atmosphere before the play even begins makes me wish that the play had been given room to breathe beyond its 1 hour running time. The play seems bound and determined to give you all the high points of the Cliff Notes version. Many of the actors speak in a hurried speech in an effort to squeeze in the entire text of the script. I later learn from Mr. Correll that the running time is a request from the City of McKinney, as this independent production performs in conjunction with downtown Main Street's annual "Dickens' of a Christmas: Home for the Holidays" festival during Thanksgiving weekend.

This time constraint appears to have the most effect on the actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge, Scott Winchester. Mr. Winchester certainly has the right look for Scrooge and he makes all the appropriate actor choices but the transitions of his character's emotions are so very quick and abrupt that it is difficult to stay invested in Scrooge's plight with such a rushed delivery.

Not all of the actors are affected by this time crunch. Robby Gemaehlich comes across as very natural and likable in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge's nephew Fredwho is the first person to attempt to reason with Scrooge about the spirit of Christmas. And Dan Slay is a standout as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Mr. Slay has a richly textured voice with excellent comedic timing.

Scott Winchester is well cast as the narrator, Dickens. He comes across as humble and neutral to the story of Scrooge, and that seems appropriate. At several points Mr. Winchester sounds as if his character was from Brooklyn and it is indicative that the collective cast's accents are inconsistent with each other. I must single out the performance of Melissa Vestal as Mrs. Filcher. She utilizes a good cockney accent, or perhaps too good, as I can't always make out her every word, but? no matter, she is very engaging and chilling to watch in the Christmas Future segment.

The roles of Young Scrooge and Belle are played by Nick Blaskovich and Patti Hogarth, respectively. Ms. Hogarth's character, being the young love to Scrooge, is the most pivotal role of this production. We must believe this woman's longing and woefulness for Ebenezer Scrooge and Ms. Hogarth does not disappoint.

No credit is given to the scene designer of the show but the spacing of the stage is used economically with two rolling boxes interlocking with each other to be desks, tables, or a bed to suit many needs. At one point I raised my eyebrows in nervousness when I noticed that during one of the scene changes the hook and eye was not successfully locked in place for the assembly of Scrooge's bed but Scott Winchester recovered nicely from this faux pas.

Earlier I mentioned the effective backdrop at the pre-show. This backdrop is used throughout to convey the change of setting smoothly.

The lighting design by Darren Wade is efficient and covers all areas on the stage, but proves to strain the eyes when no additional lighting is reflected in the house arena as the action occasionally moves through and around the audience.

The costumes are assembled by Cindy Darling and Nicole Holbert. The motif of the outfits seems to stick mostly to the suggested 1840's time period of London. One costume seems particularly out of place? a poufy, pink dress with modern, silhouetted lines seem to place this costume more appropriately as a 1980's prom gown.

My colleagues who have reviewed shows past of McKinney Repertory Theatre have had positive experiences at this venue. I had a positive experience too, and admittedly it was not an experience for which I was ultimately concerned with the quality of the production, but rather, an experience that was based on my pure nostalgia for community theatre.

As it's been mentioned before, Jake Correll regards this production of A Christmas Carol as MRT's "ultimate community theatre production".

Before playing this year's part of Ebenezer Scrooge, Mr. Winchester had performed the parts of Bob Cratchit, Marley's Ghost and the Narrator in years past. Two young adults, Jacob Robbins and Layne Carter, played Young Scrooge and Belle for four years straight, returning home from college Thanksgiving break to reprise their roles for two honorary performances.

Venues like McKinney Repertory Theatre are lifeblood to the theatre community.

McKinney Repertory Theatre
McKinney Performing Arts Center, 111 N. Tennessee, McKinney,TX 75069
Runs through December 4th

Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Sundays at 2:00 pm

Tickets are $9 for adults, $6 for students/seniors, $4 for children (a $2 processing fee will be assessed for each order)

For information and tickets, call 214-544-4630 or purchase online at