‘A Christmas Carol’ at Meadow Brook Theatre enters its 33rd year

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By Shelby Tankersley

“A Christmas Carol” has graced the Meadow Brook stage for so many years that it has acquired a large following and achieved traditional status.

With a story familiar to most, the play puts viewers in the Christmas spirit though carolers, laughs and the antics of the crabby Humbug, Ebenezer Scrooge.

The play follows Scrooge as he is haunted by three spirits trying to make him see the error of his ways. He relives his past, sees the present in a new light, and discovers what the future will hold if he doesn’t change. By the end, Scrooge is the friendliest man one could meet, sharing his new found perspective on Christmas with those around him through acts of kindness.

After 33 years, the play surprisingly hasn’t changed much. However, that’s how the fans seem to like it. Dikka Berven, an Oakland University professor, said that she always enjoys the play.

“I have seen the ‘Christmas Carol’ too many times to count,” Berven said. “It is a tradition to see it, and I always enjoy it even though I have seen it many times before.”

She also mentioned that while the play hasn’t changed very much, she wouldn’t want it any other way. She finds the stage and the actors to be making a flawless tribute to the story.

“I think it is perfect,” Berven said. “All the way from the singing before the production which puts everyone in the holiday spirit, but also into the spirit of Dickens’ time, the flawless scenery and staging, the transition from the misery at the beginning to the joy at the end.

“I hope they never stop putting on that play, just the way they do it. It is a great tribute to one of the best writers in the English language, namely Charles Dickens.”

Thomas Mahard, another OU professor and actor, has been experiencing the play firsthand for 29 years, and six years as Scrooge. He said that while actors have come and gone and props get replaced, the play is essentially the same.

“To me, I see a thousand things that change each year,” Mahard said. “To the average audience member, very little changes, and they like that. The message is important, and I think we present it in an entertaining way.”

He said the most common things that change are the actors.

“Though I consider myself a constant with the show, I believe I’ve changed a great deal from the thirty-something year-old lad with the full head of hair who was hoping he’d get a chance to do the show just one more time next year,” Mahard said. “The kids grow up and are replaced with a new crop, sometimes younger brothers and sisters carrying on the family tradition.”

He said that he enjoys his performances and sees them as an adventure in the sense that he travels across an entire life each time he takes the stage. It seems that his time with the play, particularly Scrooge, has taught him a lot.

“I sometimes refer to playing Scrooge, as like taking a journey,” Mahard said. “I get to start out all mean, stingy and unrepentant, then the various ghosts show me the error of my ways, and I’m able to achieve redemption.”

“A Christmas Carol” will be at Meadow Brook until Dec. 21. To experience the tradition, tickets and show times can be found at http://www.mbtheatre.com.