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‘Christmas Carol’ returns to Hale Center Theater

Ghosts, music and Christmas swirl together for the 21st time tonight.

Charles Dickens’ book, “The Christmas Carol,” comes to life on the Hale Center Theater Orem stage this evening and throughout December in a revised musical.

Cody Hale, technical director and producer of the show, said the show has always been morphing, but there are some distinguishable differences in this year’s production.

“We asked ourselves what we can do to make it better,” Hale said. “I reread Charles Dickens’ book, and I wanted to recapture what Dickens was trying to say.”

According to Hale, the musical is starting with a fresh beginning. Another change is the use of a recorded narration that has not been in the show for 15 years.

“Whitey Johnston was in World War I and mustard gas had destroyed his voice,” he said. “His voice was very scratchy and interesting. We used it when we first started the show but then turned the narration over to the actors.”

Hale said the benefit of returning to the recording is the actors can interact with the recording instead of being stagnant.

For some people, Christmas has become a commercial holiday, focused on purchasing and eating. Hale said this revised production is trying to put Christ back into Christmas.

“It’s actually a very religious story,” he said. “We think locals would appreciate that. Some moments make you cry and some moments make you laugh. It makes you run through a gamut of emotions.”

Jennifer Rasmussen, who plays the part of Mrs. Cratchit, said the modifications for this year, by adding lines or movement, help add meat to the more skeletal scenes.

“The changes provide the audience with more information about the characters and the story,” Rasmussen said. “When you adapt a book to a play, you have to tell a story in a certain amount of time. There’s not enough time to include everything.”

She said she even felt changes in her own life that tweaked her portrayal of Mrs. Cratchit.

“I have increased empathy for my character,” Rasmussen said. “I have children and they have faced some pivotal choices and the powerlessness from not being able to make the decisions for them helps me better understand Mrs. Cratchit’s helplessness to her child’s sickness.”

Eric Glissmeyer, who plays the role of Bob Cratchit, said the only change affecting him is the very beginning of the production.

“For many years, we began with the Christmas carol ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,’” Glissmeyer said. “This year I sing the very first note. It’s very special to be the first person to convey the message of the show.”

He said when the show first started, it was not a musical. It has undergone numerous changes over the years.

“There are people who come year after year,” Glissmeyer said. “They are probably pleased to see the changes in this particular production, maybe they even make a game out of seeing which parts are different.”

For complete show times and ticket information, log on to the Hale Center Theater’s website, haletheater.org.