For its 20th anniversary at Hartford Stage, "A Christmas Carol" is adding a few new faces.
You've heard about Michael Preston, the Trinity College professor and former Flying Karamazov Brother who is succeeding the long-serving Bill Raymond as Ebenezer Scrooge. But three other lead roles have also been recast.
None of these new faces seem to have any Connecticut theater credits: Kenneth De Abrew, who has done a lot of Shakespeare at regional theaters and off Broadway, as Fezziwig/First Solicitor and Undertaker; Shauna Miles, who has done a lot of new plays in West Virginia and Colorado, as Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit; and John-Andrew Morrison, who was in the new Bob Marley musical "Marley" in Baltimore this year, in the role of inventor Mr. Marvel.
Here's the rest of the cast, including kids. (Congrats, young thespians!):
Buzz Roddy will continue to play Scrooge at the student matinees and will be Second Solicitor at the shows where Preston plays Scrooge. Vanessa R Butler (star of Hartford Stage's "Queens for a Year") has been bumped up from ensemble member to the roles of Fred's Wife and Belle (played last year by Flor De Liz Perez), while Rebecka Jones has been promoted from Mrs. Fezziwig/Mrs. Cratchit to being the new Spirit of Christmas Past, Bettye Pidgeon and Old Josie (replacing Johanna Morrison in those roles).
Returning to their same roles are Robert Hannon Davis (Bob Cratchit); Noble Shropshire (Jacob Marley, Mrs. Dilber); Alan Rust (Spirit of Christmas Present, Bert); Terrell Donnell Sledge (Scrooge at 30, Fred); and Sarah Killough (Fred's Sister-in-Law, Ghostly Apparition). Fourteen students from the Hartt School are in the ensemble: Laura Axelrod, Jake Blakeslee, Rebecca Chism, Brittnay DeAngelis, Jamaal Fields-Green, Dan Macke, Alyssa Marino, Evan McReddie, Daniel Owens, Nicholas Rylands, Dawniella Sinder, Austin Tipograph, Alessandro Gian Viviano and Dominique Rose Waite.
Now, those kids: Alexander O'Brien and RJ Vercellone, both 7 years old, alternate in the role of Tiny Tim. Sana "Prince" Sarr (who you might have seen in "Camelot" at Westport Playhouse and "Assassins" at Yale Rep) and Nicholas Glowacki alternate as Turkey Boy.
Lily Girard and Taylor Santana both play Fan, Brendan Reilly Harris and Ankit Roy are Boy Scrooge, Emma Kindl and Tessa Rosenfield play Claire, Amelia Lopa and Ava Vercellone have been cast as Belinda, Ethan Pancoast and Fred Thornley IV are both Peter and Princess-Larrine Moore and Addison Pancoast alternate as Spoiled Child. The Fruit Children are Ethan DiNello and Andrew Michaels (each playing Ignorance) and Majesty-Alexis Moore and Jordyn Schmidt (as Want). The chorus members of School Boys this year are Isabella Corica, Hunter S. Cruz, Norah Girard, Jaime Han, Timothy McGuire, Meghan Pratt. The child actors range in age from 7 to 12.
"A Christmas Carol—A Ghost Story of Christmas" was adapted and originally staged by Michael Wilson. The production has undergone a few small changes over the years, including some added flying ghosts in 2013, but is largely the same as when first done in 1998. Artistic Associate Rachel Alderman currently oversees the staging. The show runs Nov. 24 through Dec. 30 at Hartford Stage. Details at hartfordstage.org.
'Anastasia' Does NYC Concert
"Anastasia" is one of more than a dozen Broadway musicals featured in a free concert series on Mondays from Nov. 13 through Dec. 11 at New York City's The Shops at Columbus Circle Great Room.
"Anastasia" cast members will perform Dec. 4, alongside performers from "Chicago" and "Waitress." "Anastasia" premiered at Hartford Stage in 2016 and has been on Broadway since April.
In other "Anastasia" news, Ramin Karimloo will be the first member of the original Broadway cast to leave the production, with his last performance as the Russian general Gleb scheduled for Dec. 3. Karimloo was not with the show when it was in Hartford — there, Gleb was played by Manoel Felciano. anastasiabroadway.com.
Familiar Faces 'Under the Radar'
New York's Public Theater announced its "Under the Radar" festival slate for January, and many of the names on it are familiar from Connecticut appearances.
Among the dozens of performers bringing their latest works: New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik (Long Wharf's "The Most Beautiful Room in New York") with "The Gates: An Evening of Stories"; David Cale (Hartford Stage's "Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky," several shows at Long Wharf) with "We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time" and Roger Guenveur Smith ("Rodney King" at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas) with "The Hendrix Project."
I'm thrilled to see Yale School of Drama grad Becca Wolff, who's been in California for eons, return East with "Our Country," an "Antigone"-inspired collaboration with another multimedia theater artist, Annie Saunders. Wolff did a killer production of Schiller's "The Robbers" at Yale back in 2008 and also helped develop a musical about bicycles and bombs in turn-of-the-century New Haven. "Under the Radar" details are at publictheater.org.
Is "Dear Elizabeth" the next "Love Letters"?
Sarah Ruhl's drama, based on correspondence between poets Robert Lowell and Elizabeth Bishop, had its premiere at the Yale Repertory Theatre in 2012, starring Jefferson Mays (of "Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" fame) and Mary Beth Fisher, with some extraordinary special effects that appeared to drench the stage in thousands of gallons of water.
On Nov. 19 at Theatre for a New Audience in New York City, "Dear Elizabeth" will be performed — that is to say read aloud, sans deluge — by Bill Camp and Elizabeth Marvel, as a benefit for the Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, Calif. Six months ago "Dear Elizabeth" was read by Sylvia Short, John Fink and Meredith Baxter as a benefit for California's Center Stage Theater. It's a fine script for this purpose: a reading of poetry and emotionally charged letters that creates dramatic conflict. It can be done with very little rehearsal, ideal for a one-night affair.
For decades, the best-known play for reading at theater benefits has been "Love Letters" by A.R. Gurney, the Roxbury-based playwright who died earlier this year at the age of 86. "Love Letters" had its premiere at the Long Wharf in New Haven in 1988.