Christmas in October: Meadow Brook Theatre prepares for annual show


The cast of Meadow Brook Theatre’s 2013 production of A Christmas Carol.

Oakland University’s Meadow Brook Theatre first introduced its rendition of “A Christmas Carol” in 1982. After that first year, audiences and elementary schools loved it so much that they demanded the show take the stage again the following year.

Thirty four years later, the play is still performed annually for large crowds. It’s Meadow Brook’s longest running show of the whole season. Because it’s so big, the team at the theatre gets started months before they take the stage.

“They start rehearsing in the middle of October,” Paige Biggs Vanzo, a member of Meadow Brook’s marketing team, said.  “It’s really fun for those of us who work at Meadow Brook because our Christmas gets started in October.”

The team does in fact get to enjoy Christmas through three holidays — they start casting in September and the show runs though most of November and December. This year, the play will run from Nov. 13 through Christmas Eve.

The show’s long run and large crowds are reason enough to attempt perfection. The cast and crew do a substantial amount of work to make sure the shows are great experiences for all who attend the performances, whether they have to for school or because they are a fan of the play.

“A lot of our cast and crew have been a part of the show for a long time, some of them since day one,” Terry Carpenter, stage director for the play, said. “Despite that, we still do a lot of work. ‘Christmas Carol’ is a four month process out of our season.”

The cast is currently being picked and getting ready to start rehearsals, tickets are already on sale and the set will be brought in when the theatre’s current production, “The Explorer’s Club,” finishes its run on Nov. 1.

“It’s our biggest set of the season,” Carpenter said. “The sets normally aren’t used more than once so we dispose of them at the end of the play’s run, but ‘Christmas Carol’ we save because it happens every year. It’s made to be taken apart and put back together.”

The set takes time and lots of man power to put together. Carpenter said that it is first transported from its storage facility on campus to Varner Hall where it is fixed, painted in some places and put together so they can make sure everything is in working condition. From there, it is taken apart again and brought to Meadow Brook where it is then set up for the actors to start rehearsing on.

This play has the biggest set because it accommodates the biggest cast. The cast includes two sets of 10 children alongside the 17 adult actors who will take the stage, and that doesn’t even include the understudies.

“Our first 16 days of rehearsal are packed – we have the whole cast in a rehearsal room that in much smaller than the stage,” Carpenter said. “So we get out on the stage as soon as we can.”

Big cast, big set and, of course, big ticket sales.

“We start selling tickets in June, we open up this show sometimes even earlier,” Biggs Vanzo said. “Some of the shows for this year are already close to being sold out.”

Who said anything about Christmas being in December? For Meadow Brook Theatre, October is where it’s at.