News Column

New version of 'Christmas Carol' will have regional premiere at Dayton Playhouse

November 16, 2013


Nov. 16--Theater directors are always on the lookout for good new plays, especially those that haven't been produced in the area. In the case of the holiday show that's about to open at the Dayton Playhouse, the internet can claim the credit.

Director Dodie Lockwood, who's been involved with local community theater for more than 50 years, was searching the web for holiday show ideas last year and noticed a reference to a play called "Fellow Passengers," described as a new adaptation of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol."

When she saw that it had been adapted by Greg Carter, director of the Strawberry Workshop Theatre in Seattle, she tracked Carter down on Facebook. He agreed to send her the script.

It was a good match.

"I loved it!" Lockwood says now about the drama that transports audiences through the old streets of London to witness Scrooge's past, present and future. "I have done versions of Dickens' novel before and this one really seemed to focus on the essence of the writing. It's true to the literature without lots of added holiday trappings. I'm also a writer, so I was very attracted to this aspect of the piece."

Carter was thrilled as well. His play has only been staged at Seattle Workshop and he was delighted to learn that the Dayton Playhouse was interested in staging it as well.

Assembling the actors

Because the play requires three strong and versatile performers, Lockwood decided to pre-cast the three leads. She chose experienced thespians Chuck Larkowski, Megan Cooper and Franklin Johnson.

"The characters in this play are so vivid and the actors skip in-and-out of character constantly and they each portray dozens of characters during the production," Lockwood explains. "We are presenting the play as a staged reading with costume pieces and music."

Cooper, also known to folks in the Miami Valley as the executive director of FilmDayton, says she likes the fact that this particular script eliminates much of the spectacle that's typically associated with holiday shows.

"It's a real treat to get back to the Dickens' original text and tell the audience this classic story," she said.

Larkowski, who taught music history and analysis at Wright State University before his retirement, agrees.

"What I like most about this show is that it places Dickens' language at the center of attention, so the experience for the actor is somewhat like doing Shakespeare," he said, adding that the show is especially challenging because actors are required not only to move from character to character but to "slip from narrator to character and back."

Original music

The scenes will be woven together by music created by well-known musicians and composers Michael and Sandy Bashaw.

"Some of the pieces are very old and some pieces they have composed for the production," said Lockwood, who added that the Bashaws also are creating many of the sound effects.

Sandy Bashaw said their research for "Fellow Passengers" uncovered a number of old English carols that they had never heard before that have been incorporated into the play.

Family appeal

Lockwood says the play, with a set by Chris Newman, is suitable for all ages, but not written for very young children.

"I think it will appeal most to older children, teens and adults who enjoy reading and appreciate good literature," Lockwood said.


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