NCTC Christmas means French kids, bears and binge drinking

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Submitted photo Mary Caroline Moore (Mrs. Bob Cratchit), Megan Jackson (Madeline) and Sarah Demelow (Winnie-the-Pooh) all appear at Newnan Theatre Company for the holiday season.

By JOAN DOGGRELL
Special to the Times-Herald
Newnan Theatre Company is opening the 2012 Christmas season with two charming Christmas plays for children and an adult parody of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.”
The double feature children’s show includes “Madeline’s Christmas,” adapted from the delightful children’s story by Ludwig Bemelmans, and “A Winnie the Pooh Christmas Tail,” based on the stories by A.A. Milne with the script, music and lyrics by James W. Rodgers.
For adults who need an antidote to holiday sentimentality, Jeff Allen is directing “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge,” by Christopher Durang.
The two-act children’s show opens on the Main Stage Friday evening Dec. 7 and runs through the next two weekends, with both morning and afternoon shows each Saturday. “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge” plays in the Black Box Theater at 8 p.m. on Thursdays, 10:30 p.m. Fridays, and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Before each Saturday children’s show (Dec. 8 and 15), starting at 9:15 a.m., the Big Man with the white beard in the red suit will join Madeline, Winnie-the-Pooh and some of their best friends for a special Christmas tea with songs, games, holiday goodies, and pictures with Santa, Madeline, Pooh, and other characters.
Tea with Santa is $15, or for $25 you can enjoy the tea and see the 11 a.m. show on the same day.
Laura Pratesi, directing “Madeline’s Christmas,” is well known for her starring roles in NTC productions such as “Cinderella,” “Epic Proportions” and “And Then There Were None.”
“Madeline’s Christmas” takes place in an old house in Paris where twelve little girls attend boarding school. The girls want to go home for Christmas, but they’ve all caught the flu because they forgot to wear their scarves, which they’d washed, all except for Madeline. She forgot to wash her scarf – it was dirty but she wore it anyway – and consequently didn’t get sick.

Kristi Rapson, a member of NTC’s Board of Directors, is directing “A Winnie-the-Pooh Christmas Tail.”

“We have a wonderful cast of young adults: Sarah Demelow as Winnie-the-Pooh, Casey Bunce as Christopher Robin, Sydney Willard as Rabbit, Katy McGloughlin as Piglet, Jessica Pearson as both Eeyore and Tigger, and Sarah Beth Rapson as Owl and Kanga,” said Rapson.

Christopher Robin tells a story about Eeyore, the old gray donkey who lives by himself in the thistle corner of Hundred-Acre Wood. He is miserable because he has lost his tail, and everyone, including Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet, is trying to help their friend.

“We are not going with the Disney version of the production,” said Rapson. “We’ve gone back to the essence of A.A. Milne’s classic Christmas story, so the look of the show is going to be more along the lines of the classic pictures in the Milne books, a more rustic look than the shiny, bedazzled Disney styling. It’s going to be really sweet. At the core of it, our inspiration is Christopher Robin’s imagination. He’s playing with his stuffed animals in the woods and imagining stories where they come to life. It’s really a cute show.”

For several years now, Jeff Allen has made it his business to provide Christmas entertainment for adults with a cynical turn of mind. This year he is directing “Mrs. Bob Cratchit’s Wild Christmas Binge,” by Christopher Durang, a musical parody of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” There are some comically darker moments that some younger Yule tiders may find mature, but mom and dad will love this in-your-face romp through a world that even Dickens himself couldn’t imagine.

Chloe Beckman (SF Weekly Arts) describes the play as a “gleeful demolition job on the very notion of the enduring masterpiece.” Allen, a masterful comedian himself who directed “The Eight: Reindeer Monologues” last year, is in his element with this raucous satire.

“There are two Mrs. Bob Cratchits,” explains Allen. “Sarah Lees plays the goody-goody one, and Mary Caroline Moore is the Mrs. Cratchit who undergoes a violent character change leading to her wild Christmas binge.” (With twenty-one starving children and a perpetually cheerful husband, who wouldn’t?)

“Rick Parerra from Atlanta, a new face for us, is playing Ebenezer Scrooge,” continues Allen. “Valerie McKay is playing the Ghost of past, present and future. She’s coming from Alpharetta, and she is wonderful. Lenton Lees, familiar to audiences in other NTC productions, is playing Bob Cratchit.”

In keeping with Durang’s intention of turning “A Christmas Carol” on its head, Little Nell is being played by Paige Mikles and Tiny Tim by William Newman, the two tallest people in the cast.

As the Ghost whisks Ebenezer off to different places, Mrs. Cratchit gets caught up in all the “whisking” and ends up going into the future. “She is very frustrated with her life – she’s not in a happy place,” said Allen. “But in the course of the play she eventually finds her happiness.”

Durang doesn’t mind borrowing from other great Christmas stories and dragging in other characters. Clarence the Angel shows up from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Monica and Tess from “Touched by an Angel” make an appearance. The Ghost accidentally takes Scrooge into the lives of Oliver Twist and Leona Helmsley as well. The play also alludes to the Enron scandal and “The Gift of the Magi.”

“There are musical numbers, as in any good Christmas show. There’s also a moral, though we’re not quite sure what it is. We’ll leave it up to the audience to figure out,” added Allen.

To purchase tickets, and for show dates and times, visit Newnan Theatre Company’s web site at http://newnantheatre.org or visit the box office before or after any performance. The theater is located in historic downtown Newnan at 24 First Avenue.

If you have questions regarding the content of any show, email Artistic Director Paul Conroy at artistic-director@newnantheatre.org.



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