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Variations on a Christmas classic

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Published:

Story by Kris Kochman

There is something enduring about Charles Dickens’ story of an old miser who opens his heart and finds the Christmas spirit before time runs short. It has made “A Christmas Carol” a holiday tradition for many people. Various stage productions keep the story fresh this season, ranging from musical versions to adaptations that shift the focus of the action.

Looking for a show to enjoy with the whole family? Consider the Kenosha production of “A Christmas Carol, the Musical,” presented by Christian Youth Theater at Reuther Central Auditorium, 913 57th St.

“Some productions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ are dark. Ours is definitely more of a family friendly production,” said executive director Justin Parks. “It’s under two hours. It’s really good for families because there’s a lot of singing and dancing and color that keeps kids engaged.”

The cast is “90 percent from Kenosha,” Parks said, and includes youths ages 4 to 18. This is the first year the CYT has staged a production in Kenosha, but has presented the musical for the past two years at its Zion, Ill. location. CYT is an after-school theater arts education program, offering classes in northern Illinois, as well as in Kenosha.

The musical was written by Alan Menken (“Beauty & the Beast,” “Little Mermaid”) and Lynn Ahrens (“Seussical”) and given a Broadway style treatment to tell the story. Three spirits visit Scrooge and attempt to show him there is more to life than money, through tours of his past, present and future.

Christian Youth Theater’s public performances of “A Christmas Carol, the Musical” take place Dec. 9, 10, 11. Phone: 888-588-2298.

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Old World Wisconsin in Eagle (W372 S9727 Highway 67) will present the classic tale from a different point of view — that of Scrooge’s business partner. “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” tells a familiar story with a fresh perspective, according to director Bob Parker, who is also assistant director of Old World Wisconsin.

The story takes a funny and irreverent turn as it focuses on Marley’s heroic behind-the-scenes efforts to save Scrooge’s soul — as well as his own. Marley is aided by an impish sidekick, Bogle, in this version of Dickens’ classic tale.

“I could see going to a traditional show of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and this one in the same season,” says Lisa McGovern, marketing and communications director at Old World Wisconsin.

Parker said the play utilizes only four actors, playing a variety of roles and using a minimal set. With fewer than 100 seats, the theater offers an intimate setting for the show.

The theater experience is enhanced by the setting of an old fashioned Christmas in the 1870s crossroads village, located among wooded hills in the Kettle Moraine State Forest. At dinner-theater productions, theatergoers will enjoy a themed holiday meal, then take a lamp lit walk to the historic Caldwell Farmers’ Club Hall for the performance. (Theater-only performances also are available.)

Old World Wisconsin’s production of “Jacob Marley’s Christmas Carol” has shows Nov. 25-Dec. 18. Phone: 262-594-6300.

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The historic Pabst Theater, 108 East Wells St., hosts the nation’s second longest annual production of “A Christmas Carol,” presented by The Milwaukee Repertory Theatre. This marks the theater’s 36th season of “A Christmas Carol.” Dickens’ classic tale has been adapted by Joseph Hanreddy and Edward Moran, and is directed by Hanreddy.

The opulent Pabst Theater offers a magnificent backdrop for the performance. Built in 1895, it was designed in the tradition of the grand European opera houses, including an Austrian crystal chandelier, a staircase of white Italian marble and a gold leaf arch framing the stage.

Pabst Theater’s production of “A Christmas Carol” has performances Dec. 1-24. Phone: 414-224-9490.

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Chicago’s Goodman Theater, 170 N. Dearborn St., also has a long tradition of producing “A Christmas Carol,” now in its 34th year. The show, adapted by Tom Creamer, takes place in the Albert Theater.

Steve Scott will direct the show, returning to head the production after 20 years, and will bring “a lot of spectacular new elements,” according to Jeffrey Fauver, publicity manager for the Goodman.

“Happy moments will be happier. Scary moments will be scarier. Magical moments are more magical.” Fauver said. “There will be more music and a larger scale with more choreography.”

Actor Larry Yando embodies the character of Scrooge — a character he has portrayed for four seasons at the Goodman, Fauver said.

The Goodman production of “A Christmas Carol” is a holiday tradition for many people in the greater Chicago area, Fauver said.

“They saw it as a kid and now they’re bringing their kids.”

Goodman Theater’s “A Christmas Carol” shows take place Nov. 18-Dec. 31. Phone: 312-443-3800.

Other groups hosting community theater productions of “A Christmas Carol” in southeastern Wisconsin include:

Falls Patio Players

: Members Carol Klose and Jack C. Strawbridge developed an original musical production, featuring French and English carols as well as eight original songs. Performances take place Dec. 2, 3, 4 at Menomonee Falls Middle School Auditorium, N88 W16750 Garfield Drive. Phone: 262-255-8372.

West Bend Masonic Center,

301 N. University Drive. Performances take place Fri. Nov. 25 to Sun. Dec. 11. Phone: 262-366-9109. A special premier night Friday, Nov. 25 includes a dessert, beverage and wine buffet.