Hanover Theater, North Shore Music Theater ‘A Christmas Carol’ Performances Bounce Back From COVID Shutdowns
âA universal story that applies to everyone and every year,â is how Troy Siebels, President and CEO of the Hanover Theater in Worcester, describes âA Christmas Carolâ, even during a pandemic.
Hanover has been telling the story of Scrooge for 13 years, with this year’s show taking place from December 16 to 23.
âWe’re trying to make it honest and really true to the original, to the book,â said Siebels, who is also directing the performance. “Of course he wrote a book and doesn’t act, so there’s a lot to do to adapt the scene.”
Although the story is classic, the Hanover show is unique, strongly incorporating the music of their Wurlitzer theater organ to convey ideas and emotions. The organ is the only instrument in the show with the actor’s song.
This year’s performance also takes a different direction with the Cratchit family for the first time in the history of the show.
âIt’s a time, in the middle of the 19th century, when England started to colonize India and there started to be a lot of immigration back and forth. So we looked at the Cratchit family as recent immigrants from India and it’s really interesting how that impacts history, âSiebels said. âIt makes him more real in a way. Scrooge is not only blind to the need around him, he is also blind to the iniquity around him. It is really fascinating.
But Hanover isn’t the only Massachusetts theater to feature Scrooge on stage.
In eastern Massachusetts, the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly also offers an annual production of “A Christmas Carol”, from December 2 to 23. Although the shows have the same title, each theater brings a cast, adaptation, and heart to the story that keeps people coming back every year.
North Shore has been broadcasting “A Christmas Carol” for 30 years, with David Coffee playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the last 27 of them – with no plans to slow down. This performance was a staple in the local community, as crowds dress in their vacation’s best to learn a timeless lesson told by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future.
The theater only missed the show twice, owner Bill Hanney said. In 2009, North Shore aired “High School Musical 2” instead of “A Christmas Carol” and then went bankrupt. Hanney, who primarily owned theaters throughout his career, stepped in to save the theater in 2010, remodeling the building to show his dedication to his audiences and bringing Scrooge back on stage.
The second time was, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been a difficult time for North Shore, Hanover and countless other theaters around the world.
Hanney kept North Shore afloat with her own funding, then took out a loan, a move that saw them bring “A Christmas Carol” back this month.
Hanover got through the first year of the pandemic thanks to community support, especially the Myles and Jean McDonough Charitable Foundation, which donated a million dollars that helped keep staff employed. Hanover also received federal funding that helped them recruit staff in the spring of 2021. From the CARES Act, they received a PPP forgivable loan of $ 677,200, according to page 16 of their annual report.
During the pandemic, the Hanover Conservatory was open and classes continued but the theater was closed until fall 2021.
âThe performances are back, but the audience isn’t quite there yet. We’re about 30% lower than we would normally expect from ticket sales, âsaid Siebels, adding that donations and corporate sponsors are helping close that gap until people feel more secure. comfortable coming to shows.
While North Shore couldn’t make âA Christmas Carolâ last year, Hanover told the story anyway, reducing their cast to eight and releasing a film version of the performance. The film provided some funding, the theater said, but not as much as the general public for many in-person performances.
âI’m glad we did, but it wasn’t the same – great production is community. Bringing all of these people together in one room has real power, âsaid Siebels. âBeing in the same room as a show is like seeing the Rockettes on stage in Radio City rather than seeing the Rockettes on the TV screen. You just can’t compare.
That being said, the pandemic is not over and both theaters have demanded that their staff be fully vaccinated, taking the guidelines seriously because in-person experience is so essential to what they do. Proof of vaccination is required in Hanover and masks are required in both theaters for the public.
Community is a word that comes up several times in both theaters. Hanney spoke about how important the North Shore performance is in eastern Massachusetts, with people making “A Christmas Carol” a regular part of the holiday celebrations.
Siebels agreed, saying, âI’m really proud that we are as connected to the city of Worcester as we are. The city has supported us so much and we try to do everything we can for the city. “
United Way of Central Massachusetts is even offering 1,500 tickets to families who would otherwise not be able to attend the Worcester show.
Although these performances are presented in different communities, with different audiences and adaptations, Siebels and Hanney said they focus on inclusion.
North Shore chose the narrator, who is an older Tiny Tim, as an actor with a prosthetic leg since the kid uses a cane and made sure the audience could see him.
Additionally, at various shows, Hanover has a performance with sign language interpretation, audio description and even has a “relaxed performance” where they reduce effects and show ghosts before putting audience members more at ease. .
This relaxed show is particularly accommodating for children or people with autism.
âOne thing that is important to me on this show is that it speaks to everyone and that it is accessible for the holidays. We want everyone to feel at home in this production, âhe said. “It’s such a universal story that applies to everyone and every year. And so we want everyone to be comfortable coming and being a part of it.”