Playhouse Merced to present “A Christmas Carol”

Playhouse Merced brings together past and present artists as they continue to celebrate their 20th anniversary with the production of “A Christmas Carol – A New Musical” opening next Friday.

“It is a new musical,” actor Scott Guthier said. “The songs are fresh, rich and, in some places of the show, traditional. The music adds another dimension where the audience gets pulled farther into the story with the various characters revealing the thoughts and emotions deep within them. It’s very powerful.”

The show is directed by Sandra Dinse, founding artistic director of Playhouse Merced.

“Playhouse Merced is celebrating its 20th anniversary as a live performing arts venue in downtown Merced,” Dinse said.

“As part of the celebratory year, Rob Hypes, the Playhouse’s young and inspiring artistic director, asked me to return for the anniversary and direct one of the plays in the season. I agreed and brought along my husband (Noble Dinse), who was the company’s scenic designer when I was running the company.”

She selected “A Christmas Carol – A New Musical” for several reasons.

“One, I had never directed the show before,” Dinse said. “Two, it was a good show to work with child actors, which I enjoy. And three, directing a holiday season show has always been something I enjoy.”

She said she is delighted to be part of a tradition of live theater that has been in place in Merced for decades.

“The 20th anniversary of the Playhouse is really the celebration of 20 years of live theatre in the current facility, the Howard Larson building,” she said.

“But live theatre in Merced, as founded in 1978, has been running in various locations for 35 years straight without a single break.”

Dinse said she is very proud of the artists who got their start on the stage at Playhouse Merced and have moved on to direct children’s theatre, run conservatories, and establish arts academies in towns and cities across the country.

“The list of conservatory graduates who have gone on to successful careers is considerable,” she said.

The story of “A Christmas Carol” is taken from the classic 1843 novel by Charles Dickens and tells the tale of the miserly and bitter Ebenezer Scrooge, who is visited by three ghostly spirits on Christmas Eve and vows to change the direction of his life.

Written in 2007, “A Christmas Carol – A New Musical” has book and lyrics by Keith Ferguson and music by Bruce Greer, and features tunes such as “Sing a Christmas Carol,” “Christmas Eve at Fezziwig’s,” “As We Remember” and “God Bless Us, Everyone.”

It is musically directed by Joel Scott Shade with set design by Corey Strauss and costume design by Cindy Strauss, and features a Central Valley cast that includes Scott Guthier as Ebenezer Scrooge, Renney Doser as Jacob Marley, Jesse Stofle as Ghost of Christmas Present, and Mikee-D Love Asenjo as the charwoman.

“This is a story of redemption,” Guthier said. “Watching Scrooge transform as he sees the bitter, selfish person he has become to a one who comes to the realization that life is more than money and riches, and is about family, friendship and faith. It’s timely, a family piece, a reminder to slow down and remember the important things that really matter in life.”