MANCHESTER, NH – There’s no better time than right now to consider 12 good reasons to go see this year’s production of “A Christmas Carol” at the Palace Theatre, which opens Dec. 6 and runs through Dec. 22. Like the multiple gifts presented in the holiday classic song, “12 Days of Christmas,” we enlisted the help of cast members Megan Quinn (reprising her role as Mrs. Fezziwig) and Mark Woodard, one of two actors portraying Ebenezer Scrooge this year, to help us count the ways “A Christmas Carol” is the holiday gift that keeps on giving, and essential to making spirits bright.
Lively, Upbeat, Family-friendly
“When the Palace first started doing A Christmas Carol it was more of a play with music added to it and it was on the darker side, the spookier side. One of the biggest things (Artistic Director) Carl (Rajotte) did when he came on was change that. (Palace CEO) Peter (Ramsey) asked him to make it more family-friendly, so he added music, lights, dancing. That was maybe 18-19 years ago, and it’s grown even further from there,” Quinn says. “Honestly, this is a hard time of year for a lot of people. Sometimes they just need to take two hours and not worry or not be sad, just escape. Our version is just that – it’s a nice break from the world and you get to listen to music, take part in some merriment and see a change in Scrooge – and come out the other side feeling good.
2. Through the Eyes of a Child
“Carl says in rehearsal that when he was conceptualizing his refresh of the production he thought about it from when he was a boy, and the lens he’s focused on is through a child’s perspective, which I found informative as an actor. It’s more of an uplifting childlike take,” says Woodard. “And speaking of children, we have 150 total performing in the show this year. We do three different weeks, 50 kids in each cast, but that’s another really important tradition for a lot of these kids. I know kids who started performing in the play at age 7 and now are high school seniors, and they’ve done it every single year. This is their Christmas, their holiday season.”
3. Fresh Talent Year After Year
“Having cast members rotate through different roles helps keep the production fresh. Audiences love the old stalwarts, but having new actors come through – and what they bring to the characters – is always exciting, not just for audience members, but for the cast as well,” Woodard says.
4. Original Score
“This is the only version like this of A Christmas Carol out there. The score was written exclusively for our production by Joel Mercier,” says Quinn.
5. Free for School Kids
“Part of or tradition includes doing productions for local school students. This year we’re doing eight school shows and they’re all sold out,” says Woodard. “What’s great about the school versions is that it allows some of the understudies to take center stage, so all the actors involved get a chance to shine and keeps it fresh for the ensemble casts, plus it gives the featured actors a much-needed break.”
6. Props and ‘Easter eggs’
“As the cast started arriving and rehearsals got underway we got to see some of the new little touches Carl has added. So if you’re a veteran audience member you should notice them,” Quinn says, of the props and so-called “Easter eggs” or hidden surprises that will be noticeable to those who have seen the show time and again. “I won’t give it all away, but for example, when the spirits come out for Christmas past, they usually come out with candles. We have a new prop this year.”
7. Technology Rocks
There’s nothing like a live production and the old-fashioned connection you miss out on with other mediums, but the Palace has made great use of new technology, says Quinn. “Carl likes to find a new projection here and there, it’s a new thing that’s been incorporated into the production and over the past few years and it has paid off in that space. It’s amazing what you can do with video and quality pictures, in addition to the same set we’ve had for 20 years.”
As always, there will be a production-themed Christmas spirit available from the concession stand to enjoy. Make sure to get your official Palace production cup and you can sip during the show.
9. Face Time With the Actors
“One thing I love so much about this show is that a handful of us get out into the lobby after the show to say ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ to our audience members,” Woodard says. “It’s gratifying to see people leaving the show so upbeat and elated. I had a lady last year who came through and told me that she lost her husband recently and it was wonderful to experience the joy of the show when she needed a lift. I like that we can connect with people in that way, to have that experience with them, beyond the stage.”
10. Bonus Caroling
“If you are at the theater about a half-hour before the house opens you may see a quartet singing carols in four-part harmony,” says Quinn. “We do a set of about 10 minutes, and it’s a nice little bonus for the early birds.” And if you’re a contributing Palace member, you are invited to the annual member reception after opening night. “The whole cast will be there, and there are snacks and everyone gets a drink ticket and a chance to take photos.”
11. Win a Handmade Quilt
“One of our ushers, Anne Hatin, she makes a holiday-themed gorgeous quilt every year and she sells tickets in the lobby for the annual quilt raffle,” says Quinn. “Every single penny raised she donates to our Palace Youth Theatre and we use that money for our scholarships. Last year she raised $5,000. You will find Anne at a table with the quilt, so make sure you get your ticket.”
“On closing weekend there is a bake sale, and the cast gets together and has a cookie party to get ready. It’s another big fundraiser for the Palace Youth Theatre, and audience members can purchase anything from cookies for snacks at intermission to full cakes and pies and breads. The bake sale ends on the 22 of December, so for those who are going somewhere for Christmas Eve, it’s a win-win – they can donate to support the Palace Youth Theatre and take a nice cake or pie home with them, or to wherever they’re going.”
Tickets are available for The Palace Theatre’s annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” with 17 performances to choose from. Click here to reserve your seat.