Novelist Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" is one of the reasons Christmas looks as it does in modern America.
Continuously in print for more than a century and a half, the story is as familiar as Santa Claus.
"The story of Ebenezer Scrooge is about a miser, a malcontent who is not on board with Christmas cheer," said Daniel Johnson, director for the Minot State University production. "He is given a chance for redemption, a second chance. (That's) something we all want sometimes: a chance to restart your life. It's a very important idea not just for Christmas, either that other people are just as important as you are."
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Brett Olson takes on the crusty old miser Ebeneezer Scrooge in the Minot State University production of Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” adapted for touring by MSU faculty member Kevin Neuharth.
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Joshua Snyder as the ghost of Jacob Marley looms above a fear-struck Scrooge, played by Brett Olson, in the Minot State University production of “A Christmas Carol.”
Terry J. Aman/MDN - - Grant Johnson appears as Bob Cratchit, Scrooge’s long-suffering assistant.
The MSU production, adapted by faculty member Kevin Neuharth, includes a single public performance on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the Aleshire Theater, but the troupe will be touring it as well.
"This is not just a fundraiser for the Campus Players, it's also an outreach show," Johnson said. "We'll have done it for Little Flower -- which is now housed at Bishop Ryan -- then Washington for two performances, then Sunnyside. We're also taking it to two nursing homes."
The show has a minimalist set, suitable for multiple set-ups and tear-downs, but the costumes, by Terri Rubbert, will help bring the Victorian era of the play to life.
"The actors have needed to be aware that without the elaborate sets, the audience will focus more on them, and we're lucky to have a terrific cast," Johnson said.
He noted particularly Brett Olson as Ebenezer Scrooge as "a fantastic Scrooge, who has truly captured the sour old miser."
Johnson held out special praise for the Ghosts as well, with Brittany Armstrong as a "really funny" Christmas Past, Chris Stroschein as a "dynamite" Christmas Present, and Josh Snyder as a "fantastic" Christmas Yet-to-Come. Snyder also appears as the ghost of Jacob Marley, Scrooge's deceased partner.
Although the play is abbreviated to a long one-act performance length, all of the familiar elements are present, as seen by the inclusion of Do-Gooders, played by Penny Lipsey and Stro-schein, the Cratchits, played by Grant Johnson, Peg Morris, Megan Wolf, Abby Dunn (who also appears as Fan), Cole Anderson and Khristy Anderson as Tiny Tim.
"We have a number of 'pants' roles," said Johnson, referring to the male roles assigned to females. "A lot of women showed up to audition."
Katie Humphreys plays both Belle and Fred's Wife, with Jason Gaarder playing the young Scrooge. Rounding out the cast are Justin Pierce, Breanna Benson, Amanda Miller Thomas, Casey Ahmann, Ari Hackett, Alyssa Bauer and Jordan Crawford.
Johnson, a junior at MSU, has not directed such a large cast before, and only found out he was doing it a short time before auditions. He was the only one who had been in a touring show before, and had several directing classes under his belt, not to mention having been in, as he put it, "quite a few shows," which includes more than a dozen in his freshman year alone.
"I think I like directing better than acting, just a bit," he said. "I'm glad I got the chance to (direct) a really large cast so early in my life."
"A Christmas Carol" will be performed in Hartnett Hall at the Aleshire Theater at a cost of $6 for adults and $5 for seniors and students.