Times Correspondent | Friday, November 23, 2007 |


"Christmas a humbug? Come now, I'm sure you don't mean that!"


It's one of my favorite lines I recite in the role as the nephew of the title character in "Scrooge," the musical version of the Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol."


I love Christmas, and any chance to start the season early I'll take advantage of.


For the last several years that opportunity has come via my performance in the Ross Music Theatre/M&M Productions' version of the holiday classic at Reinhart Auditorium in Merrillville High School.


The Reinhart family first produced "Scrooge" in 1988, then again in '96 and '97. They revived the show in '02, when I came on board. I played Dawkins, the toy shop owner. My limited dancing skills also allowed me to be one of the pallbearers during the ecstatic funeral scene featuring one of the show's most beloved songs, "Thank You Very Much."


(I'll have you know that I feel I've redeemed myself, dancing-wise, as one of the "brothers" in the Ross '04 production of "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat." I'll also have you know I've since returned to having two left feet).


I took over the part of Ebenezer's nephew Fred the following year (also retaining my pallbearer role) and have remained there since. Every year at this time I don my infamous black wig. We decided on the wavy hairpiece when I got the part so as not to give the audience the impression of "Lex Luthor invades Christmas town."


I mentioned how I love doing this show, because it lengthens the Christmas season (rehearsals begin late October). Another reason is seeing old friends reprise old roles.


Father Andrew Corona is back as the jolly "Christmas Present." He's done this show for years. Then there's Kathy Smederovac, who plays the nephew's wife in the show. Kathy, or "Sassi" as everyone calls her, was "my wife" in '03. I had several wives in between. I guess we're back together now.


Not everyone can do the show every year. I miss my good friend Mike "Chef" Spurlock, unavailable this time for work reasons. Don't feel sad for me, I see him frequently, and he'll come see the show -- and buy me a beer afterwards.


Mike's not really a chef, although I hear he's a good cook. I've called him Chef -- and gotten most people to follow my lead -- since I first met him in a production of "Hello Dolly," where he played -- what else? -- a chef.


New cast members keep the show fresh each year. After all, would "ER" really last 14 years if the original cast were still in scrubs? (Hush, you George Clooney fans).


It's always a cool juxtaposition of the old and new, and the same goes for the stage design. How great to see old set pieces survive, yet so cool when every year new designs join them onstage.


Audience members can see this show every year and find someone, or something, different -- yet retain that feeling of warm familiarity. For a lot of our audience, this show kicks off their Christmas season.


I'm way ahead of them.   LINK TO NWI TIMES STORY





Times Correspondent | Sunday, November 25, 2007 |




An inspirational story in this year's show is Hanover Central High School sophomore Ella Swinney, who, for the second consecutive year, plays Isabel and sings one of the show's standout songs, "Happiness."


Ella almost didn't return, as she's been through a lot -- her little sister was diagnosed with leukemia over the summer and is almost finished with "a major round of chemotherapy."


This year's production probably has a little more meaning for Ella.


Every year this show, more than any others I've been a part of, features many cast members from the same family. There are mothers/daughters, fathers/sons, brothers/sisters.


Every Bob Cratchit has had at least one time his own son portray Tiny Tim. This year is no different.


Hobart's Bill Hebert once again plays Tom Jenkins, the man who leads us all in "Thank You Very Much" while dancing on a coffin.


A few years ago Bill decided to take a break from the show. However, when his replacement had to back out at the last minute, Bill jumped back in and saved us. Thank you very much!


It's been a tradition that began with the nephew before me to give his character's friend at the Minister's Cat party scene a different Dickensian name every night.


This friend, along with most of the party guests, doesn't know what's coming. See? Now you can come to the show every night and collect all the names!  LINK TO NWI TIMES STORY