Dec 6, 2019
The Ritz Theatre Company Presents Revitalized and Reimagined SCROOGE: THE MUSICAL
(November, 2019 — Haddon Township, NJ) — This Christmas, the Ritz Theatre Company enters a new era, presenting a “revitalized and reimagined” take on its annual holiday production of Scrooge: The Musical, a celebrated tradition that spans more than two decades.
“The message of this show is universal and the show touches on the very soul of the Ritz Theatre Company’s core values,” says Producing Artistic Director Bruce Curless, who first brought Scrooge to the Ritz stage back in 1993 and has tackled the title role for more than 250 performances. “Kindness is king, and it wouldn’t feel like the holiday season if that theme isn’t explored and made fully manifest on the Ritz stage.”
A family tradition across the region and fun for all ages, Scrooge: The Musical (running this year from December 12th through December 22nd) follows the plot of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in which the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge undergoes a profound experience of redemption over the course of one Christmas Eve night, after being visited by the spirit of his former partner Jacob Marley and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future.
Despite the show’s exceedingly rich history and staying power at the Ritz, however, this year signifies a sort of extra-textual “passing of the torch” on several different levels. To begin with, this year’s production of Scrooge marks the first time in the show’s long, storied history at the Ritz in which Mr. Curless is not directly involved, following his departure from the title role last season. Taking up the mantle of Ebenezer Scrooge in Mr. Curless’ place is long-time actor and Ritz alum Alan Krier, a distinguished veteran of the South Jersey theatre scene in his own right.
“I can think of no one better to take over the role than Alan Krier,” says Mr. Curless. “He is perfect for the part and such a sweetheart! Our audiences will love him and his Scrooge!”
The significance of taking over such an iconic Ritz role is not lost on Mr. Krier, who was chosen within moments to become the next Ebenezer Scrooge once it was decided that the show would return to the Ritz again this year.
“My very first thought when I was asked to play this role was that people who have seen the show at the Ritz over the years would ask, ‘Who the heck is this guy?’ There is definitely some anxiety and it’s definitely a daunting task taking over. No one could ever fill Bruce’s shoes and I am very grateful for this opportunity. I can only hope to create a character that is equally entertaining and memorable.”
At the core of this “revitalized and reimagined” Scrooge production, moreover, is Ritz Associate Artistic Director and Production Manager Matthew Weil, who modestly conveyed last December that, at some point down the road, he would like the opportunity to tackle Scrooge: The Musical here at the Ritz, re-envisioning the show so as to breathe new life into it from a storytelling perspective.
“As a director and having been involved with Scrooge over the last four years, it’s nearly impossible not to fantasize about how you might personally direct the piece or a given moment,” says Mr. Weil. “In all transparency, I do that with nearly every show on the Ritz’s stage. That’s the mind of a director!”
Fast forward eleven months or so and Mr. Weil now has that opportunity to carry out his own creative vision for Scrooge, and, true to form, he aims to begin anew.
“This year, we have moved away from two actors playing all of the adult roles and have expanded to a full-size cast, providing new energy, blood, and ideas to this celebrated tradition. We’ve done away with the polarizing house platforms and acting in the aisles—all of the action will take place on stage! Lastly, we are placing a heavy emphasis on a return to the source material. This allows us to really delve into the grave immediacy of Scrooge’s reformation, while still enjoying the Christmas cheer that this musical has so readily provided to South Jersey patrons for all these years.”
With the production process now well underway and Opening Night fast approaching, Mr. Weil continues to find this timeless Dickens tale, told in musical form, more artistically inspiring and invigorating than he originally conceived, especially from a humanistic, sociocultural standpoint.
“As with all good theatre and storytelling, we find our protagonist, Ebenezer Scrooge, in a liminal moment. A moment in which a decision needs to be made that will dramatically alter the course of his life. It’s the strength and eternal relevance of Scrooge’s particular liminal moment that has earned this story a place among the classics. I don’t know that we will ever reach a time where teaching human kindness won’t be needed. It goes without saying that we live in a time and place where philanthropy and human kindness are at a premium, but I would argue that this has always been the case. To quote the show, this is ‘a time where want is keenly felt and abundance rejoices.’ It isn’t a far reach to apply that to our current sociopolitical climate.”
Finding the redemption of Ebenezer Scrooge to be socially relevant in this day and age, now more than ever, is arguably an essential through-line in one’s endeavor to amplify the inherent universality of the story. Mr. Weil, for his part, is not deterred by such an undertaking, firmly believing that the story’s thematic power and profundity will shine ever brighter on the Ritz stage this holiday season.
“Ultimately, I believe theatre’s cultural impact lies in shared experience. It is incremental and sometimes slow to bear fruit. We very rarely are afforded the opportunity to see how our work has affected social consciousness. However, if we are lucky enough to touch even a few audience members and perhaps alter their worldview, then we will have added a tiny chapter in this classic story’s cultural transcendence.”
All told, this reimagined Ritz production of Scrooge aspires to link new vision with time-honored tradition, delving deep into the myriad reflections and revelations that make this story such a masterwork of the holiday season. Joining Mr. Weil on this project are music director Nicholas French, choreographer Lindsey Krier, costumer Briana Bailey, and an amazingly dedicated company of performers alongside Mr. Krier’s Ebenezer Scrooge. According to Mr. Weil, everyone involved with the project this year are passionate about delivering a show that’s not only abundant with Christmas spirit, but one that also celebrates the never-ending importance of compassion and connection.
“A Christmas Carol, or in our case Scrooge: The Musical, is a story about connectivity. Love is connectivity. Philanthropy is connectivity. Family is connectivity. Connection is what enriches our lives. It is our hope that the audience leaves the theatre feeling a greater sense of connection—with fellow audience members, loved ones, and even strangers. As humans, we long for connection, but life has a tricky way of getting in the way. We hope that Scrooge can help clear away the clutter and makes room for a deeper sense of connection with everyone.”