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Spirit salve: A Christmas Carol 

FAC musical digs into the layers

click to enlarge Bob Rais rocks out as Ebenezer Scrooge in the new FAC - musical.
  • Bob Rais rocks out as Ebenezer Scrooge in the new FAC musical.
Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol may be the most exploited, battered and abused of all holiday stories. Everyone knows the plot: Old cranky guy is visited by ghosts, sees the error of his miserly ways and voila! he's cured.

Susan Dawn Carson thinks it's time for a new way of looking at the story, so she's directing a musical version for the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center Theatre Company, an arsenal of well-known local actors and actresses at her side.

"It's really a story we take for granted," says Carson. "It's a fuller story than we remember. It's fun, it's light and there are elements of humanity and magic, but there's a dark line through it, and that gives it some weight."

With the help of her design team, Carson channels the conditions of the socially downtrodden into a visual reality. By experiencing the dingy, smoky feeling of the set, the audience is privy to the environment of the working class, one of the many sublayers in the story.

Bob Rais, the actor playing Ebenezer Scrooge, says the script stays true to the original, and he credits the tight, efficient writing with making his job a little easier. The challenge for Rais is to make his character's one-night awakening, brought about by the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present and Future, seem real.

"It's a challenging role," he says. "But it's great fun to come through this painful portal and come out and go, 'I'm a baby! Whoo-hoo!'"

(He's a tad excited about the part.)

Just as the ghosts keep Scrooge on the path toward self-discovery, the musical numbers steer the play. In this particular version, the musical score, by renowned writers Michel Legrand and Sheldon Harnick, is as important to the story as the script.

"As a director, I want it to be about the story and the characters first," Carson says. "You need to be able to get from the speaking to the singing [seamlessly], because there is no other way for you to tell the story.

"There aren't any blackouts for scene changes," Carson explains, "so the challenge is to make everything flow from one scene to the next and still have everything be grounded in reality."

Though A Christmas Carol has been told numerous times in a variety of forms (including a Muppet rendition), Carson says it's timeless in its ability to capture the Christmas spirit and get the audience thinking.

"The heart of the piece has to be real, the pain that Scrooge goes through has to be real, and then we can add all those magical layers, funny layers and joyous moments on top of that," she says. "Then we all get to enjoy the journey together, and we believe it."

A Christmas Carol

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Nov. 30 to Dec. 23; Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.; Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m. Special family matinees Saturdays, Dec. 8, 15, 22 at 3 p.m.

Tickets: $26-$31; visit csfineartscenter.org.

  • Susan Dawn Carson thinks it's time for a new way of looking at the familiar story.

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