A local theatre company has gone to great lengths to bring the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) to their venue to perform Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol”. Unfortunately, the RSC ends up clear across the country leaving this rag-tag group of theatre people to throw together their own version of the show.
After trying to stall the audience for a while with a series of false starts and apologies, the entire cast and crew come out on stage to explain the situation to the audience. We meet the pretentious writer, the flustered director, the hard-nosed stage manager, the “professional” actor playing Scrooge, and a myriad of other “theatrical types” that theatre companies and audiences will recognize immediately. It quickly becomes apparent that this group is far from ready to put on a show. All sorts of last minute chaos ensues.
As they are preparing for the show to begin, we find out what’s happening backstage: there are two child actors vying for the role of Tiny Tim; there’s an extremely flighty and confused crew member who believes she is in the cast; two cast members who are very unhappy with each other; and others who are struggling to make the best of the situation.
Eventually, all is in readiness and the production begins. The writer serves as the “narrator”while the director sits in the audience and occasionally bellows out directions when things go awry. Even the light and sound board operators are characters in the show and occasionally call down from the booth to offer their apologies and comments.
Throughout the chaos, the “professional” actor playing Scrooge does his best to maintain his composure while everything is going to pieces around him.The play within the play (Dickens’ A Christmas Carol) follows all the events in the classic novel. But our rag-tag group of theatre people are hopelessly inadequate to the task of telling this familiar tale.
During the course of their show, everything that can go wrong does: Set pieces, props and costumes look as if they were thrown together; scene changes are wild and chaotic; sound effects are off; etc. But the real humor of the show comes from the actors and crew members doing their best to make the show work. There is Nan, who is forced into a role and ends up freezing on stage – forcing the Stage Manager to sneak up behind her and speak her lines (while moving Nan’s arms as if gesturing).
There is Duane, a complete goofball who takes calls on his cell phone during the show (when he’s not over-acting). There is Pamela who frequently “loses”herself in her roles and gets dramatic to the point of absurdity.
Brynn, who after taking a strong antihistamine is so addled that she believes she is in the play – but not sure which one! She enters from time to time in various costumes ad-libbing lines from various other roles including; Huckleberry Finn, Anne Of Green Gables, Dracula, Hamlet, and others.
There is a horrendously bad singer that forces Scrooge to lose his cool. Linda, who after Duane faints, has to take on both the roles of Bob and Mrs. Cratchit (using a half and half costume). Worst of all, both of the youth actors come on stage to play Tiny Tim during the Cratchit’s scene, forcing the family to adapt.
On top of all the actor mishaps, there is also the valiant crew that struggles to do their jobs. Lyssa, the hard-nosed stage manager who has to bare the brunt of the director’s frustrations. The inept crew whose scene changes are chaotic and wild. Megan and Johanna the board operators that are more interested in the latest episode of a current reality television show than the play they are working. And on and on.
The show plays through the entire story of “A Christmas Carol” and ends with the actors exhausted but pleased they survived the experience!