Since the second week of school, young actors and actresses in Monticello have had Christmas on their brains. It is Monticello High School’s first try at holding a fall musical rather than spring, and organizers found Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to be a perfect fit for their new performance season.
A three-show run begins with a Friday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m. performance, followed by a Saturday performance at 7:30 p.m. and a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee.
In addition to the full crowd of local supporters they hope to find at their three performances, the musical cast will also have some special attendees from the Hennepin Theater Trust at each show. The trust chose Monticello as one of 56 Minnesota schools to include in their Spotlight Musical Theatre Program, giving which works to support and advocate for high school theater programs and students. A director from Hennepin Theatre Trust will give a professional critique and ranking of each performance.
“It’s very, very helpful,” said Director Kristen Gordon of the critique. “Their intent is to educate and to improve musical theatre around Minnesota at the high school level, which I think is really neat.”
The Hennepin Theatre Trust will also be choosing either individual actors/actresses or the entire cast to perform at their annual Spotlight Showcase, which takes place in June at the Orpheum Theatre in Minneapolis. Last year’s spotlight showcase included a couple of Monticello students, who received training through the program and have the ability to perform in a professional setting to a sold-out crowd. Needless to say, Gordon said the cast has their fingers crossed that their performance of “A Christmas Carol” will land them a spot at this year’s showcase.
“A Christmas Carol” is a fitting name for this musical, which Gordon said includes 17 different songs, compared with the 10 to 12 found in a typical musical. It tells the classic tale of stingy, coldhearted Ebenezer Scrooge and the magical journey toward Scrooge’s redemption. Gordon to said to expect a few special effects throughout the show to emphasize the magical experience of Scrooge’s transformation.
“It is very similar to Les Miserables in the way that the story is really told through song,” Gordon said. “The songs are very cheerful and uplifting.”
This particular version of “A Christmas Carol” is new, written last year in London by Chris Blackwood and with music done by Piers Robinson.
In addition to the older performers one would expect to find at a high school musical, director Kristen Gordon said this year they were able to add several younger children to the mix, giving it an authentic feel.
“It has really been a fun thing,” Gordon said of the addition of younger children. “It has actually been delightful-they have been really good, and they are super talented.”
For the Walker family, this allowed “A Christmas Carol” to become a family affair. Matthew Walker, a junior at the high school, took his first plunge into acting last year, when his older brother was cast as the lead role in Singing in the Rain and he decided to try out for some supporting roles. Now this year it’s Matthew’s turn for the lead role, playing Ebenezer Scrooge. Similarly, it was his younger siblings’ turn to jump in after him: all four of his younger siblings are now part of the cast.
“It has been busy, and it has been loads of fun,” Matthew said. “It’s a good cast-very energetic. We just have fun with what we do.”
The 2 1/2 hour show will have intermission with appropriately themed refreshments-the school bakery is making special batches of gingerbread men to add to the holiday cheer of the performance. Tickets can be purchased in advance by calling 763-272-3100 weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. or they can be purchased at the door. All tickets are $9.