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A new look for 'A Christmas Carol'

When the ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge's business partner, Jacob Marley, visits him one fateful Christmas Eve, he is told to expect three spirits to haunt him — spirits of Christmas' past, present and future — all intent on setting Scrooge on an unlikely path to redemption.

Charles Dickens' 1843 novella describes Scrooge, the focal character of his tale, as a cold-hearted miser who despises Christmas ... "The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, made his eyes red, his thin lips blue, and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice ..."

Oregon Cabaret Theatre sets a production of "A Christmas Carol" in a steampunk-inspired, neo-Victorian, fantastical world in London complete with live music and stage effects.

"Steampunk can be something of a catchall term," says Rick Robinson in a press release. Robinson adapted the tale for OCT's stage and co-directs with artistic director Valerie Rachelle.

"It can refer to the style in alternate history stories like Michael Moorcock's 'Nomad of the Time Streams' series or the style in a complete fantasy setting like Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy. To me, it's the future world as imagined by the past. Here is this polite Victorian world funneled through the imagined, steam-powered future of writers like Jules Verne."

This entirely new version of Dickens' classic will preview Thursday, Nov. 19, open Friday, Nov. 20, and run through Dec. 31 at OCT, First and Hargadine streets, Ashland. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 19-22, Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 24-25, Friday through Sunday, Nov. 27-29, Wednesdays through Sundays, Dec. 2-6, Dec. 9-13 and Dec.16-20, Tuesday through Thursday, Dec. 22-24, Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 26-27, and Tuesday through Thursday, Dec. 29-31. Matinees are set for 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, Nov. 21-22 and 28-29, and Dec. 5-6, 12-13, 19-20 and 26-27. 

Preview tickets are $21, $35 for all other shows or $21 for bistro seating. Dinner reservations begin at 6:30 p.m. for evening shows; brunch begins at 11:30 a.m. for 1 p.m. matinees. Appetizers, beverages and desserts do not require reservations. Matinee tickets for kids 12 and younger are $25. Tickets and reservations are available online at oregoncabaret.com or by calling the box office at 541-488-2902.

A 20 percent discount is available for groups of 10 or more. Student rush tickets are $10 and can be purchased 30 minutes before curtain, subject to availability.

OCT's production of "A Christmas Carol" will feature Tiny Tim with a metal brace instead of wooden crutch and the Ghost of Christmas Present with a mechanical arm, long metal staff and cornucopia of bent metal and pale blue light. The other ghosts' costumes will feature lights fastened to them, and contact lenses will make their eyes pure white. As the story movies forward in time, the London air can only be inhaled through mechanical respirators.

The futuristic elements will not just be seen in the costume design.

"One theme Rick has woven into the adaptation is the passage of time," Rachelle says. "There are all these gears on designer Alan Schwake's set that make the story look as if it takes place inside a clock tower, some of which will spin as we go back and forth through time."

The adaptation also carries an emphasis on Scrooge's emotional journey and the ghost story from Dickens' original text.

OCT's cast features John Leistner (The Daly News) as Scrooge, Jessica Blaszak (Dames at Sea) as Mrs. Cratchit, Scott Ford (Wizard of Panto-Land) as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and Stephen Kline (The 39 Steps) as Marley's ghost. Newcomer Vanessa Ballam plays Belle, and Stefan Espinosa plays Bob Cratchit. Southern Oregon University graduates Patrick and Beth St. John make their OCT debut as Fred and the Ghost of Christmas Past, respectively.

Costume design is by Kerri Lea Robbins, lighting design is by Chris Sackett and Tom Freeman and Elisabeth Weidner are sound designers.

John Leistner plays cold-hearted miser Ebeneze Scrooge in Oregon Cabaret Theatre's new adaptation of 'A Christmas Carol,' opening Friday, Nov. 20. Photo courtesy of Christopher Briscoe