Most of us are familiar with Charles Dickens’ classic tale, A Christmas Carol. It’s the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a rich, yet stingy businessman who dislikes festivities and celebrations. Scrooge is well-known for his hatred for the poor as well as for the harsh way in which he treats them. In the story, Scrooge is visited by spirits who test his beliefs and eventually, Scrooge realizes that he has erred and resolves to become a compassionate, charitable man. The story has become synonymous with Christmas and has maintained its status of being a holiday staple around the globe.
The stage version of A Christmas Carol has become a local tradition as well, courtesy of the performers at the Gilbert Theater. For the fifth straight year, the Gilbert Theater has been entertaining the community with its own take on one of Dickens’ most famous works. According to founder and artistic director at Gilbert, Lynn Pryer, despite the fact that the story was published more than 150 years ago, it still resonates with readers and audiences today.
“Human nature does not change. Greed is still with us,” Pryer said, going on to say that the reason he loves theater is that, “Great stories can change people. Brilliant stories like this one have lasting power. It was on stage one month after its publication in 1843. Redemption is a tenant of all great religions.”
It is his love for the performing arts that led Pryer to open up the Gilbert Theater in the basement of his home back in 1994. Now in its location at the corner of Green and Bow streets in downtown Fayetteville, the theater is well known for both its classical and contemporary productions. Gilbert prides itself on providing performances that are both entertaining as well as socially relevant.
When asked about the challenge of keeping an annual production like A Christmas Carol fresh, Pryer noted, “Doing a play year after year requires us to improve this and that: sets, costumes, props, music, etc.”
His ultimate goal is for his audience to “sit breathless in their seat and leave changed. We ask audiences to willingly suspend their disbeliefs.”
“In a familiar story like A Christmas Carol,” he said, “our task is to use Charles Dickens’ words and breathe life into them.”
It is no wonder, then, how the motto of the Gilbert, “where story telling takes center stage” came to be.
Those who were fortunate to have caught last year’s version will be happy to learn that John Doerner will be returning in his role as the selfish businessman, Scrooge. Also returning this year are Paul Wolverton as Bob Cratchit, Cleve Davis as Jacob Marley’s ghost and Joyce Lipe as the narrator. Carrie Carroll, Crystal Abbott and Efrain Colon will portray the three spirits.
The production will run Nov. 26 - Dec. 12. Thursday and Friday shows are at 8 p.m. Saturday shows are at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sunday shows are at 2 p.m. only. (There will not be a show on Dec. 9). Tickets are $12 and can be purchased at the website www.gilberttheater.com or at the box office beginning Nov. 17.
The box office is open on Tuesday 5-7 p.m., Wednesdays and Saturdays from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Walk-ups are welcome but seating can’t be guaranteed. For more information, visit the website or call 910- 678-7186. The Gilbert is located on the second floor of the Fascinate U Children’s Museum and it is wheelchair accessible