In the sanctuary of a refurbished, stone Methodist church which now houses the Oldham County Schools Arts Center, a Dickensian – styled set looks appropriately melancholy as it is dimly lit by the December sunlight peeking through the Gothic arched window.
However, the gloom is abruptly cut by giggles and excited shouts from the cast backstage, where the young performers are navigating their way through the halls that are being used to store the props such as chains, sausages sewn out of cloth, brooms, tombstones, wreaths and a random bunch of grapes. They are decorating their dressing rooms with paper snowflakes in preparation for the Arts Center’s production of “A Christmas Carol—The Musical” next week.
This youth production showcases some of the most stellar up-and-coming musical theatre talent of Kentuckiana. Though the cast ranges in age from 6-18, the actors and actresses who will be performing all possess impressive theatrical talent and resumes, with students representing Spencer, Oldham, Jefferson and Shelby counties, as well as Southern Indiana.
Kathie Davis is the Director of the Oldham County Youth Theatre (OCYT) and has been active in theatre for over 25 years. She is directing this play and says that the production promises to be unique and fresh.
“The music is really what drives it. Alan Menken who was the composer for ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and ‘Aladdin’ wrote all the music for this show. The music is so gorgeous and it really draws you into the whole thing,” Davis said. “And having a youth cast gives it a new life.”
“We had originally looked at a 1970s version of ‘Scrooge’, and you could get the script for that, but the language was very dated. So we’re patterning ours after the 1990s Kelsey Grammer version which is a little more modern, but still maintains that Dickens’ flair.”
Another specialized aspect of this production is the level of dancing featured, with all numbers choreographed by Trina Jackson.
Jackson brings 35 years of experience to the Oldham County Schools Art Center. Following graduation, Trina relocated to New York to study full time, where she was a scholarship student at the Broadway Dance Center. She instructs the Oldham County Performance Troupe, who represent as the core performers in the Christmas Carol’s dance numbers.
The Troupe is comprised of a number of talented performers who are skilled in ballet, tap, jazz, and Broadway-styled dance techniques—often traveling with Jackson to study on Broadway in the summers.
And finally—the main cast list.
Jacob Jones, 18, will be playing Ebenezer Scrooge.
“He’s only been with us for a couple years, but he is very much a method actor. Last year, he was in a production of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and he studied Jimmy Stewart, and had even his voice cadence down by the time he did the show, and he is doing a lot of the same things with Scrooge this year,” Davis said of Jones.
Jones said of his own experience in preparing for “A Christmas Carol”: “This is different than any other production I have been a part of; in most plays you have room for dramatic pauses, but since this musical has a track, I have gotten to learn the character through the music.”
“I also really appreciate the transformation Scrooge undergoes from yesterday to today to tomorrow. I think everyone will really enjoy how he opens up,” Jones went on to say.
Lydia Johnson, 16, is giving life to the role of The Ghost of Christmas Past.
“The way I have chosen to direct this is as a very elegant, but playful, character. And she dances so beautifully, and does pique’ turns around Scrooge—it is really, very lovely,” Davis said.
When asked about her favorite part of preparing for this production, Johnson replied, “I really love anything Alan Menken and Disney—and this musical also has the classical theatre aspect to it. The character is so incredibly elegant and girly, which is fun to explore.”
Spencer Stewart will be playing Ebenezer Scrooge’s deceased partner, Jacob Marley. “The fun part about playing Marley is the freedom offered to me by Trina and Kathie to really explore the character. In other productions of ‘Christmas Carol’ Marley is kind of dark, but I play him off as more comedic,” Stewart said.
The Ghost of Christmas Present will be played by Noah Robinson who said that he loves the character because the character is as “big, funny and goofy” as Robinson is in real life.
Finally, the Ghost of Christmas Future is played by Janae Boling who said her favorite part of preparing for the play is “really getting to know the other actors.”
Performances of “A Christmas Carol—The Musical” will be on December 12, 13, and 14 at 7pm. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Tickets may be purchased at the door or in advance by calling the Arts Center at 502-241-6018.
This very special musical is sure to delight audience members of all ages.
More information about The Oldham County Schools Art Center’s production of “A Christmas Carol – The Musical” can be found at www.ocsartscenter.org.
Photography courtesy of Ashlie Danielle Stevens