Dorset Players bring Dickens to life in 'A Christmas Carol'

Northshire community troupe to open popular holiday show

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DORSET — Dorset attorney Kevin O'Toole believes one can never have enough of a good thing, especially a classic work of literature in whatever format it's offered to the public.

And so in the fourth try of his long career on stage as a member of the Dorset Players, O'Toole will finally get a chance to play the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, ringing in the holiday season with Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," in a version dramatized by Ray DeMattis and William John Aupperlee.

The annual Christmas show, directed by Don Petersen and produced by Cheryl Gushee, will run Dec. 6-8, and 13-15. Choreography is by Kelly Gaiotti, with musical direction by Lori Bond.

"The Dorset Players, with the show opening this Friday, will have mounted five productions of `A Christmas Carol,' in 1975, 1992, 2002, 2010, and 2019, " O'Toole said. "I will have participated in four of those. In 1992 and 2002, I played Bob Cratchit and Joe the Pawnbroker. In 2010, I directed a traditional Victorian, full set version. This year, I get to play the old humbug himself."

Over the years, O'Toole continued, the novella of Scrooge's redemption has become dear to him. He added that director Don Peterson's interpretation presents storytellers who relate and then dramatize the familiar tale.

"What always moves me is not that Scrooge receives a second chance," O'Toole said. "His nephew Fred, after all, makes an annual pilgrimage to Scrooge's office to invite him to dinner, only to be rebuffed with gusto. But Scrooge, this time, seven years after his partner's death, takes advantage of that second chance."

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The popular story boasts a cast of 24, and follows parsimonious Scrooge as he floats with ghostly guides through Christmas past, present and future to discover the true meaning of the holidays. The DeMattis-Aupperlee adaptation was first performed at the St. Bart's Playhouse in New York City.

Also appearing with O'Toole in the production are Evan Cassan (Tiny Tim), Josh Bond (Bob Cratchit), Kristin Kimball (Mrs. Cratchit), and Skip Dickinson (Bob Marley), among other children and adult performers from throughout the region.

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"It's also is great to see families involved with the production," O'Toole said. "Josh Bond, who plays Bob Cratchit, has one of his children in real life, Evelyn, playing Martha Cratchit, and his wife, Lori, is musical director. Kristin Kimball, who plays Mrs. Cratchit, gets to interact with her daughter in real life, Penelope, who portrays another of the Cratchit brood."

Choreographer Kelly Gaiotti, who earned major plaudits last season with her Players work on "Oklahoma!", agreed with O'Toole's assessment of the closeness among cast and crew, noting a family connection of her own.

"My son Ryan is excited to be part of this show since he enjoyed hanging out with the cast of `Oklahoma!' last spring," Gaiotti said. "So I must thank my [`Oklahoma!'] cast for giving my children an interest in the theater."

Gaiotti, a physical therapist who last performed in a full ballet version of the show when she was a dance major in college, also said that while dance is not extensive in this production, it presented her a challenge whose results audiences should find pleasing.

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"I had no music score for the Fezziwig scene so I had to choose and design my own music, and with the help of music director Lori Bond, who put what was in my head to life," Gaiotti said. "For the dancing I wanted to mix the new with the old, so you will see hints of Sir Roger de Coverley as it is mentioned specifically in the book. Then I mixed some modern movements in for the audience for some great fun for the adults and children in the cast to share."

In witnessing the dance master's enthusiasm, producer Cheryl Gushee spoke for everyone involved in the Dorset Players production by saying that the community theater troupe is always focused on entertainment.

"This production, with 24 actors and numerous people on the production team defines ensemble theater," Gushee said. "Every actor on stage contributes to the telling of this story. It has been a pleasure and learning experience to watch the pieces come together in this minimalist interpretation, the focus being on the story, with the costumes and set kept simple. Dickens message of the power of charity and goodwill seems so much more potent, and is very relevant today. Audiences will really enjoy this!"

Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," adapted by Ryan DeMattis and William John Aupperlee, directed by Don Petersen, and produced by Cheryl Gushee will run at the Dorset Players, 104 Cheney Road, Dorset, from Dec, 6-8 and 13-15. Tickets and info: 802-867-5777 or dorsetplayers.org

Reach award winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at tchalkias@aol.com, Twitter: @TellyHalkias


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