Audiences enjoyed The Riverfront Playhouse’s version of “A Christmas Carol” when it was first presented 20 years ago, and they are still enjoying it today.
“I love doing ‘A Christmas Carol’ because our audiences always leave smiling,” said Sherry Winchester Schultz, the show’s director. “They laugh a little, they cry a little, and they LOVE the number ‘The Bodypickers’ Tango.’ The gypsy, Howard, played by Shawn Dooley, is always a crowd favorite with the young and the old. He breathes fire and chases people with a sword while cracking jokes — what’s not to love?”
Part of the appeal of the show is its non-traditional presentation. Sherry Winchester Schultz’s late husband, Jack, adapted the Charles Dickens’ classic and wrote a dozen songs for the show. Jack Schultz’s version has a traveling band of actors arrive in town on a circus wagon to tell the story. The twist provides a framework for Ebenezer Scrooge to receive ghostly visits from his deceased partner, Jacob Marley, and the three spirits of Christmas: past, present and future.
“A Christmas Carol” will be presented from Dec. 13-22 at The Riverfront Playhouse in Aurora.
Although this production will be true to the original script, Winchester Schultz said that some changes have been made in this year’s presentation.
“The opening song of Act II, ‘Halfway to Heaven,’ has the characters singing as well as making musical ‘noise’ with everyday household items like keys, cleaning brushes, buckets and brooms,” Winchester Schultz said. “I can’t wait to see how things end up on that one myself!”
The Riverfront production features a cast of 16 actors who fill two dozen roles. Several actors and actresses return from one year to the next to perform, which helps in staging the play.
“It makes the show much easier to mount as some of the scenes we don’t even rehearse until a day or two before we open since everyone knows them so well,” said Winchester Schultz, who has directed the show since its inception and has performed as Mrs. Cratchit in every “Christmas Carol” show for the past 20 years.
The Schultz’s two children, Jackson and Heidi, also are part of the production. Jackson will be the show’s emcee and Heidi will play the Ghost of Christmas Past and Martha Cratchit. The two have played various roles over the years.
“I love that although Jack is gone, we can still feel his presence when we perform his work, especially this show,” Winchester Schultz said. “Our version is not only a holiday tradition for many Fox Valley area families, it is especially for my family and those at the Riverfront.”