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A timeless tale of redemption

Charlie OwenVail, CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily
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Charles Dickens had no idea what he was doing when he wrote A Christmas Carol.Ironically, the story he wrote to make him a little extra cash rivals, for some, the birth of Jesus for the greatest Christmas story ever told.Most everyone is familiar with the premise of Dickens classic tale A Christmas Carol, and the universal themes of redemption, forgiveness, social injustice and doing the right thing still ring true with audiences across the nation. This holiday season, the Omaha Theatre Caravan is hitting the road once again to bring A Christmas Carol to stages across the county. One of the troupes last stops will be tonight in Beaver Creek, where they will give two separate performances at the Vilar Performing Arts Center.They really give you the feeling of what Dickens was trying to achieve with this story, said Kris Sabel, Vilar Performing Art Center director.Sabel has seen the Caravan perform the play several times at the Vilar Center and was impressed with the production value especially by the magical effects that brought the Christmas ghosts to life, he said.The Nebraska-based Omaha Theatre Caravan was founded in 1975 and started touring with their production of A Christmas Carol in 1979. The tour was highly successful and soon blossomed into a full-blown national tour with three separate companies (one for the East Coast, Midwest and West Coast) touring the states and performing the show. This year the Caravan only has two companies (each consisting of 41 actors, technicians and various other crew members) on the road, however, and the Midwestern company has been touring the western states to keep up with the high demand for the show.

The Caravans managing director, Greg Scheer, is in charge of the shows technical staff and must prepare the behind-the-scenes engineers for touring. Scheer said that technology has improved the quality of the show immensely through computerized lighting, sound systems and smoke machines, but that the show still captures the essence of the source material.Its really true to the original work and Ive seen a lot of different Christmas Carols before, Scheer said.The premise of A Christmas Carol is timeless, and as familiar to American culture as baseball or bubblegum.A miserly, mean old man named Ebenezer Scrooge is the only living owner of the Scrooge & Marley accounting firm who treats his employee Bob Cratchit and everyone else he comes in contact with, like dirt. That is until one Christmas Eve when he is visited by three spirits: the ghost of Christmas past, present and future, who take Scrooge on a journey through time so that he may see the affects his greed has had on the lives of friends, loved ones and himself. In the end, Scrooge learns to love again and seeks forgiveness and redemption from those he has abused.But what makes the Caravans production stand out from the glut of holiday entertainment available today?I think the key that has kept our production going as long as it has is really the period Christmas music that is throughout the show, Scheer said. Even though the show isnt a musical, it just has a lot of music that makes the scenes flow into each other.Music isnt enough to keep everyone happy though. Today, audiences, and kids especially, expect more bang for their buck, which Scheer is happy to deliver. The representation of the Christmas spirits on stage is enough to give the crowd shivers, especially if you have an audience full of kids, its where youre going to hear the most screams, Scheer said. Not to worry, parents, Scheer said that the play is very family friendly.Perhaps the only thing more powerful than the Caravans performance is the message of holiday cheer and giving that they bring to the audience. You dont get tired of the message thats there and it kind of helps you in your busy life to remember to think about other people … , Scheer said.Its one explanation for the staying power of an old novel written on the cheap.High Life writer Charlie Owen can be reached at 748-2939 or cowen@vaildaily.com.


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