The fictional characters from Charles Dickens’ seminal “A Christmas Carol” are brought to life in all their splendor, squalor and universality on stage in playhouses far and wide. Atlantans and vacationers, however, have largely turned to the Alliance Theatre for its rendering — David Bell’s interpretation — of the Dickens classic for nearly a quarter of a century.
The 2013 production runs through Dec. 29, allowing those both well-versed in and unfamiliar with the material ample opportunity for engagement.
“Timeless, I think, is the perfect word to describe it,” said Rosemary Newcott, a staple of the Alliance production.
She has occupied the director’s chair for “A Christmas Carol” for 13 years running.
“Some of my British friends are amazed at how popular it is [in the U.S.],” Newcott said. “I think it’s the concept of redemption that draws you in, that you can still change no matter how old you are — there’s hope. … Anybody can make amends.”
o Meet the cast
For the uninitiated: The story centers on the transformation of the miserly Scrooge, whose slumber on Christmas Eve is disturbed by a measured procession of ghosts.
Longtime Atlanta fan favorite Chris Kayser will reprise the role he has inhabited this time of year for nearly two decades.
“Scrooge is really a complete character and so recognizable,” said Kayser. “Every actor wants to play a character with his kind of arc — someone who’s affected by the events of the play and serves as this great example. … Where he starts out and where he ends up is fascinating.”
Newcott praised the venerated thespian for bringing his brand of physicality and renewal to the table for the past 16 years.
“I always felt like he comes to it fresh every year,” said Newcott. “He just completely transforms every night.
“If you allow yourself to live that journey, which I think every great actor does, you are really traveling an intense road…”
Perhaps one can expect such outpourings of appreciation directed Kayser’s way in the weeks to come. Kayser has announced plans to retire from the lead role after the Dec. 29 curtain call.
The Brookhaven native recently downplayed his impending departure, deflecting all “end-of-an-era” talk for another day.
“Theatre just goes on,” said Kayser. “I’m proud to be identified with this play, but there’s a deep talent pool here in Atlanta.
“I just think it’s time to move on. Let somebody else interpret [the role] as they will.”
In keeping with the nature of theatre, cast and crew are bidding farewell to Kayser while welcoming a bright new face into the fold.
Jaden Robinson has landed the role of the maligned young innocent, Tiny Tim.
The 9-year-old actor, a DeKalb Elementary School of the Arts standout, brings an unique perspective and depth to the part as a real-life former foster child.
“His Tiny Tim is very lovely, very kind. … You can sense his joy for life and it’s contagious,” said Newcott. “He brings that to the shows, which is just such a lovely thing.”
Returning favorites Thomas Neal Antwon Ghant (Bob Cratchit), Cynthia D. Barker (Mrs. Cratchit), Andrew Benator (Jacob Marley) and Je Nie Fleming (Mrs. Fezziweg/Mrs. Dilber) help round out the cast.
o Channeling Bell
The Alliance’s production is both a visual and aural tapestry inspired by Bell’s version of the play.
That includes being open to diversity in the form of multicultural casting, an element first shepherded in by famed director and Alliance alum Kenny Leon.
“That’s very unique to ‘A Christmas Carol’ [courtesy of] the city of Atlanta … the play is a real reflection of who your community is,” said Newcott.
The production also adopts Bell’s penchant for scoring the show with actual Christmas carols.
Said Newcott, “There’s a great canon of music to pull from and what’s beautiful about that is we can adjust … craft new sounds.”