Alluvion Stage Company Puts its Own Spin on “A Christmas Carol”

A big cast and even bigger audiences–this is what encouraged Alluvion Stage Company to produce “A Christmas Carol.” Due to COVID-19, these dreams have become a liability.

However, the cast and crew have found ways to put on a Christmas extravaganza despite obstacles.

To accommodate for social distancing in dressing rooms, director Linda Cooper cast 35 performers instead of the originally planned 50. Actors wear gloves and masks during dance rehearsals, and the choreography includes less partner work than past productions. 

COVID-19 rules dictate that actors cannot share props, microphones or costumes. 

“Not even a coat,” Cooper said.

Liberty typically rents some costumes for large shows, but to avoid potential hiccups, designers are sewing new costumes and taking a few old ones out of storage. 

Senior Mattea Harrison is the women’s wardrobe manager and works in the costume shop. She focuses on distressing—artificially aging and weathering—costumes for poor and bedraggled characters.

Harrison rubbed makeup dirt onto one pair of pants, sprayed them with water to set the stains, and patched their holes with cloth colored to resemble skin. Dried blood and another layer of makeup dirt finished the outfit for a dead character.

Most performers have several outfits, and the designers squeeze finished costumes onto close-packed racks in the costume shop before moving them into dressing rooms.

“It’s kind of a wrestling match against the clothing racks,” Harrison said.

Senior Dennis Hartman is the dance captain and a swing for several roles in addition to his ensemble role, meaning he will perform the choreography for another part if the primary actor becomes ill, or he may step into an understudy role. Due to potential quarantine, most actors are understudying someone else.

“There are very few people in this cast that are only playing one role,” Hartman said. “We have a very complex system that trickles down.”

To keep track of choreography, Hartman printed his script and has marked it with different colored highlighters for each part, plus diagrams with character initials, dots and arrows directing his movements.

Sophomore Aaron Hall also plays multiple roles, including Young Scrooge. He has enjoyed the challenge of making each character unique, incorporating their time periods and social classes.

The actors will perform on a set described by several as full of surprises. Cooper compared it to stepping into a Christmas display, with working windows and doors, fireplaces with simulated fire and smoke and houses that will open up onstage.

To accommodate social distancing in the pit, the orchestra has shrunk from 15 to nine musicians — one will play six instruments, Cooper said. Music by Alan Menken — known for his work on Disney musicals — underscores the entire show, forcing actors to time their lines exactly.

“You’ve got to hit it,” Cooper said. “There’s no taking any type of dramatic license.”

Cooper said that this version of “A Christmas Carol” has never been produced in central Virginia before.

“[It’s] a fun, fresh Christmas Carol,” Cooper said. “You can’t help but be in a good mood when you’re at rehearsals… It’s given us something beautiful to work on every night.”

Senior Stephen Shelter plays a ghost and a monk among other roles and said he was surprised that although the musical embraces Christmas spirit, the style is multifaceted.

“Not every song is fa-la-la,” Shelter said. 

Hartman said the tone of the show follows Scrooge’s transformation.

“Ultimately it’s a journey from darkness to light,” Hartman said.

Hall said he hopes audiences feel the joy of being together for Christmas, despite sitting six feet apart.

Shelter wants audiences to reflect on their blind spots and find strength to love others.

Cooper predicts audiences will walk out ready to order hot chocolate and sing carols. To her, the show’s message is full of hope.

“Redemption never gets old,” Cooper said. “And it’s never too late.”

For tickets, call the Liberty University box office at (434) 582-SEAT (7328).

Esther Eaton is a Feature Reporter. Follow her on Twitter at @EstherJay10.

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