An annual tradition returns to North Bend as Valley Center Stage will perform an in-person version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” between Dec. 3 and Dec. 19.
This will be the the theater’s second live play since the pandemic and first performance of “A Christmas Carol” since 2019. In 2020, the theater group put on a virtual Zoom performance of the show.
“[Last year] was really sterile, it really was,” said Tim Platt, who has been playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the last five years. “It was a good production for a Zoom show, but part of the theater is connecting with the actors and connecting with the audience.”
During the Zoom show, Platt was at the theater, by himself, while all the other actors performed from their homes with green screens and self-constructed lighting. They all acted toward dots placed on the walls beside them while background effects were added.
Platt said the Zoom show lost the live element of theater that makes it so unique. He said some of his favorite moments from the last five shows came from interacting with the audience.
“You always get those moments where live theater is live,” he said. “One time at the end of the show, I was getting dressed and singing silly Christmas songs and I kicked my shoe off into the audience. The whole audience laughed.”
Natalie Bryant, who plays Mrs. Cratchit, is also a veteran of the show at Valley Center Stage, having performed “A Christmas Carol” in several roles over the last six years.
“Everyone year I’m like ‘should I do it again?’ It’s such a busy time of year and every year I come back to it,” she said. “It’s part of me at this point.”
Last year, Bryant played the ghost of Christmas past from her room in front of a computer. She praised the production crew and was surprised the show went so smoothly.
“One of the hardest parts was you are actually reversed,” she said. “If you turn right in real life, it looked like left on the screen, so that dynamic is so strange.”
Mari Gunter, 12, who will play Tiny Tim, has been acting in “A Christmas Carol” at Valley Center Stage for the last three years. She said the play’s directors, Brenden and Wynter Elwood, are like her second parents and she is excited to return to being in-person.
“I like this better because I get to see everyone,” Gunter said. “I’m sort of everyone’s favorite, everyone always comes to me because I’m the youngest and that’s sorta fun. I’m the rascal.”
The show will also include newcomers, including Loren Kitchens, who plays Bob Cratchit.
“I believe Cratchit is the heart of the play,” he said. “He sees his son [Tiny Tim] as the most special. He’s the contrast to what we all take for granted.”
Davin Henrikson, who plays Marley, said his character’s speech about taking opportunities when they are presented to you feels more relevant than ever this year.
“After this year and a half of craziness with the pandemic and all, it’s added some special meaning that we need to think of our community and take care of each other,” he said. “I think the most important thing is to be smart, look out for each other and enjoy the show.”