‘Christmas’ comes early for young Parkite actors
In the upbeat holiday hit "The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," the late crooner Andy Williams sings "They’ll be scary ghost stories and tales of the glories of Christmases long long ago "
One of the most famous holiday ghost stories is, of course, Charles Dickens’ "A Christmas Carol," and four young actors from Park City are experiencing a musical version of the tale during rehearsals at the Pioneer Theatre at the University of Utah.
Christian Labertew, Emily Terran and Abigail and Maggie Scott have been traveling down Parley’s Canyon to the theatre Monday through Thursday and Saturdays to practice their scenes. The sessions run from 4 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on the weekdays and from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m.
The production, which follows the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his ghostly visitors on a life-changing Christmas Eve, will run Nov. 30 through Dec. 15.
The four took time in their busy rehearsal and holiday schedule to talk with The Park Record about their roles and their experiences in the production.
Christian Labertew, 13
Labertew, a student at Treasure Mountain Junior High, plays the role of Jonathan, a street urchin, which he has played before.
"I was in a previous production of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ as Jonathan, but that version was a straight play, with out singing," Labertew said. "Since the production at the Pioneer is a musical, I feel the character is a different person altogether."
Placing his character into a musical setting was the biggest challenge for Labertew.
"I found it a little difficult, because the role has changed from what I was used to into what I’m doing now, but I like the new version because I think he has more of a purpose," he said. "It’s also cool, just to see how things come together in this production."
The actor likes the fact that Jonathan is a street urchin who doesn’t rely on everyone. "He’s really independent and he steals only so he can live," Labertew said. "I see a lot of similarities in him and myself, because we’re both very independent. I don’t feel like I really rely on people and it’s cool to play a part like that.
"I also like the story, because I’ve heard it ever since I was a little kid," he said. "To see how they turned a regular story into a musical is incredible."
Labertew was introduced to acting during an elementary-school production when he was eight.
"I fell in love with theatre," he said. "I have been performing ever since."
His theatre path led him from school plays to the Egyptian Theatre’s YouTheatre program and on to professional productions, he said.
That training has helped him develop a dedication for the grueling rehearsal schedule that he faces each week with the Pioneer Theatre.
"It is demanding, but to be able to work with these directors, choreographers and actors from New York and Broadway is a great experience," he said. "That is my favorite part of being in this play. It’s great to see the talent this show has to offer."
Maggie Scott, 11
In "A Christmas Carol," Scott is cast in various roles in the ensemble, including a caroler, a factory worker, a guest at Mr. Fezziwig’s ball and an incarnation of Want.
The Timpanogos Intermediate School student said she has a lot of fun playing these different people, but also acknowledges how difficult it can be.
"I think the hardest part of it all is the costume changes, because I have to change them really fast," she said. "But it’s so much fun to become another character on the stage and show someone else’s view of something to the audience."
Scott, who has performed in "Annie" and "A Secret Garden," said her favorite scene in "A Christmas Carol" is Mr. Fezziwig’s Ball.
"There are only two kids in the scene, so we get special attention from the audience," she said. "I just like the whole setting, but also I like being around everyone in the production."
Of all the cast members, Scott likes the Ghost of Christmas Past, who is played by Ephie Aardema.
"I love the way she starts everything that will change Scrooge," she said.
Scott also likes Tiny Tim, who is portrayed by Anson Bagley.
"He adds so much to the story and is one of the characters that helps Scrooge transform," Scott explained. "I also enjoy the songs and the carols, because they are very catchy and fun to sing."
The actress said she is thankful to work with director Karen Azenberg.
"She works so well with kids, and she’s funny and makes it fun to be around her and the cast," Scott said. "I like that she makes everyone feel like we’re all special."
The experience Scott is having with this production has only strengthened her desire to work in the performing arts.
"I really love theatre and I’ve been doing it from as long as I remember," she said. "I really want to continue doing this."
Abigail Scott, 9
Abigail Scott said she likes being in a production with big sister Maggie.
"It’s so much fun, because we get to be backstage together and see all the other people," said Scott, who attends Soldier Hollow Charter School. "We are able to help each other."
Scott’s roles for "A Christmas Carol" are Grace Smythe, Belinda Cratchit and a member of the ensemble, and she doesn’t mind having to deal with that sort of split personality.
"I like to change from one character to another, because I get to become a variety of different people," Scott laughed.
Grace Smythe, daughter of Mr. Smythe, played by Daniel T. Simons, is the role Scott likes best.
"Her mom just died and she accompanies her father to talk with Scrooge about their mortgage.
"They ask for more time to pay the money, because they have to pay for the funeral," Scott explained. "When Mr. Scrooge says no, the dad gets so sad and Grace has to be sad and concerned, too."
Being sad is a challenge for Scott.
"It’s hard to not be myself and put a sad expression on my face, because I’m a happy person, but I like to think about what she would feel like and how she would do things."
Throughout the musical there are other scenes that Scott says she feels like she’s portraying herself.
"Later in the show, Mr. Scrooge walks through the village and sees the funeral passing and Grace sings a sweet song," she said. "The song is a hopeful and peaceful song. And I like to feel hope and peace."
Scott said the play has helped her feel the spirit of season.
"In one part, when I play Belinda, we sing a song called ‘Christmas Together’ and it’s so cheerful and happy, that I start to feel really excited for Christmas," she said. "The musical is a story of Christmas and what it means to people, and it teaches a lesson about being kind, charitable and giving."
The actress said she is proud to be in the production.
"This is a good show for families and I think people will like it, because it’s a musical and music can make people happy," she said.
Emily Terran, 13
Like Abigail Scott, Terran said playing different people is fun, but hard.
Terran, a student at Ecker Hill Middle School, plays Martha Cratchit, and Fan Scrooge.
"In any show it takes a lot of work for me to switch into a different person with a different personality, but it’s been interesting and I’ve learned a lot by performing two characters back to back, because the scenes are right next to each other.
"It’s been nice learning how to go back and forth," she said.
"A Christmas Carol" is Terran’s first production at the Pioneer Theatre.
"I’ve mostly done shows at the Egyptian Theatre," she said. "I was Baby June in the Dark Horse Theatre Company’s ‘Gypsy’ and I was in ‘Annie,’ ’13,’ ‘Boxcar Children’ and ‘Aladdin.’
"Those roles have taught me lot about theatre, and they have prepared me about what to expect with my roles at Pioneer," she said.
Terran found that she has learned even more about performing through her time working with the others on "A Christmas Carol."
"Because it’s a bigger production, there is a lot more effort that needs to be put forth to do things right," she said.
The actress said she likes seeing how the Pioneer Theatre Company’s production is different than others.
"I’ve only seen different versions of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ and that was when I was a lot younger," she said. "I love the transformation from the grumpy Scrooge into this happy man. I like the songs and think it’s very well written."
Terran also enjoys the opportunity to perform.
"I love just being on stage in front of a crowd," she said. " That’s always been something for me because I’m a singer. I like performing in general and the rush that gives me."
The Pioneer Theatre Company will present "A Christmas Carol: The Musical," with music by Alan Menkin and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, at Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 South and 1400 East, from Friday, Nov. 30, through Saturday, Dec. 15. Evening curtain Mondays through Thursdays is 7:30 p.m. and on Fridays and Saturdays is 8 p.m. Saturday matinees start at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $38 to $64 and tickets for children in grades kindergarten through 12, are half price on Monday. Tickets can be purchased by calling (801) 581-6961 or by visiting http://www.pioneertheatre.org.
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