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WVPT bringing ‘A Christmas Carol’ to an altered stage

“Bah, humbug,” said COVID-19.

If 2020 were Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, the role of unrepentant Scrooge would undoubtedly be played by the viral miser itself.

But the show must go on. And for the West Virginia Public Theatre, go on it will.

WVPT is preparing for a live reading of A Christmas Carol, as adapted by veteran actor Andy Lyons, who will play Scrooge in the production, among other roles.

The original plan was for a socially distanced crowd of 150 to be able to take in the live performance of what is primarily an aural experience — think Mountain Stage or A Prairie Home Companion.

“There will be eight actors and obviously they play a lot of different roles. Then we have two foley artists, and they’re basically the guys who are going to be making the sound effects. So, if the narrator says, ‘It was a windy, blowing night,’ then one of them will be making some sort of wind sound,” WVPT Artistic Director Jerry McGonigle said, noting the 11th member of the production will be a pianist.  

Plans changed, however, due to the recent spike in COVID-19 numbers. Now, a very small group of the performers’ friends and family will be able to attend and the rest of us will need to stay alert for the audio version to be aired on West Virginia Public Broadcasting and video versions to be available at various online locations.

“We’ll reach out to all of our audience through PR and marketing to let people know. There will be a wide variety of ways to access the performance,” McGonigle said, noting it won’t be streamed live anywhere due to financial and technical constraints.

While McGonigle admitted there is something captivating about seeing the acting and music and sound effects come together live, it just wasn’t worth the risk right now.

“The last thing we wanted was — even if we were really, really safe — if one person got sick or one person brought it in and gave it to two people, that just wasn’t acceptable,” he said. “It just happens to have converged with this spike right now and we want to do the responsible thing. The last thing we want to do is put any audience member in any type of danger.”

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