A Christmas Carol returns with behind-the-scenes look

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November 14th, 2012

Omaha, NE – It’s that time of year again, and for the 37th time, the classic story of Scrooge and his cold-hearted ways will be told at the Omaha Community Playhouse. This year, the production of A Christmas Carol also comes with a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a local tradition.

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A Christmas Carol was first brought to the stage in Omaha in 1974 in what was planned to be a one-year-only performance by former artistic director Charles Jones. Now, more than three decades later, the theater will host its 1,000th production on November 30. “I think it’s very much ingrained as a holiday tradition,” said current artistic director Carl Beck, as he sat down for an interview this week backstage at the Playhouse. Though it’s changed over the years, the essence of what Jones originally intended, Beck said, has remained the same. “That is very much a ‘Currier and Ives’ sort of feel of Christmas as we wish it would be,” Beck said. “The essential mission of hope and love for humanity is a core to the production.”

Jerry Longe (left) and Ryan Laughlin (right) in A Christmas Carol. (Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse)

Today, A Christmas Carol includes a 40-member cast along with dozens of crew members and two touring productions that continue to travel the East Coast and the Midwest. As Beck walked backstage, the Playhouse was quiet, but the long hours put in by the cast and crew were evident as he pointed out racks of dozens of intricately woven and festive costumes, rolls upon rolls of fabric, paint cans, wigs, props and painted backdrops ready to be mechanically rolled out on stage. “The opening scene where you have the street scene with all the shops, and you have all of the characters in a frozen tableau, and the snow is falling, and it’s image is meant very much to look like a ‘Currier and Ives’ Christmas card,” he said, “and then it comes to life.”

That behind-the-scenes look at what goes into the making of A Christmas Carol will be open to everyone this year. A documentary crew from NET Television followed the actors, directors and stagehands during the 2011 production from the first audition to opening night. That film, Casting Call to Curtain Call, will premiere on NET Friday.

Watch a preview of Casting Call to Curtain Call:

Beck said the film captures the hard work and commitment of the cast and crew to put on a polished production. But, he said, at first he had some qualms about fitting in a film crew to a hectic production schedule. “We were very excited and at the same time hesitant about having a documentary crew in the building,” he said. “We all know that we live in a generation of reality TV, and we weren’t anxious or looking for a reality statement or to uncover the ‘dirt’ beneath A Christmas Carol.”

A Christmas Carol returns to Omaha for its 37th run on Friday, November 16. (Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse)

“But we very much did want to tell the story of it because it’s become a huge Nebraska tradition, and we all felt it should be chronicled,” he said, adding, “They did a splendid job.”

A Christmas Carol returns to the Omaha Community Playhouse the same night of the NET premiere, November 16, and runs through December 23rd.

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