‘Dickens Christmas Carol’ gives Children’s Theatre head start to holidays

Nikolas Mandalas portrays Scrooge, left, Divita Beckett as Tiny Tim, center, and Jonah Cerri as Bob Cratchit in “A Dickens Christmas Carol.” (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Prepare for a visit from the ghosts of Christmases past, present and future as the Children’s Theatre brings the holiday classic, “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol” to life this weekend at the Schwartz Center for the Arts.

“‘A Christmas Carol’ used to be an annual tradition but it got put on the shelf so we could do some new performances, but I just felt this was the right time to bring it back,” said director Patricia Parsons-Beetschen. “The overarching theme is to be kind to one another and I think we need a reminder of that now more than ever.”

With film versions of “A Christmas Carol” being released over the course of 70 years, most of the group’s young actors have been grown up with the story and before casting, it was already a holiday staple.

“I’ve seen a few versions of the play and I would say I’ve taken most my inspiration from the 1984 (George C. Scott television) movie,” said 13-year-old Ace Clark who plays Jacob Marley.

From left to right, Avery Young as Spirit 1, James Bowen as, a Caroler, Anthony Quinene as Spirit 2, Makayla Steed as Want, and Giovanni Harding filling in as Spirit 3 for Tierney Bowen. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“I love the role because firstly Jacob is a ghost and ghosts are really cool. And he’s loud and very expressive. I’m normally pretty quiet so it’s always fun to play loud characters that aren’t like me at all.”

Ace’s character is the first spectral visitor to Scrooge in this retelling of the classic, a stingy, grumpy old man who refuses to participate in holiday cheer and the giving spirit. Marley, a deceased business partner of Scrooge’s warns him of the fate he’s doomed to endure unless he changes his ways.

Thirteen-year-old Manuel Nieves, who portrays a businessman in the show said that the Marley scene is his favorite of the show.

“When Scrooge get his first visit, it’s loud and can be alarming if you don’t know it’s coming which is what makes it so good,” he said.

Nikola Mandalas, a 14-year-old playing Scrooge, is having a great time portraying the old curmudgeon.

“I normally play more regular, mainstream roles so it’s been awesome playing a character with such a distinct personality,” he said. “It’s also the biggest part I’ve had so I’m a little nervous but I know I’ll be able to pull it off.”

Cast comes together

Nikolas said working together as a group is one of the most exciting parts of being a part of the Children’s Theatre.

“We work hard but it’s fun to work together and help each other out to make an amazing show that people are going to love to watch,” he said.

“It’s great to see the older kids working with the younger ones because we’ve seen them turn into role models. It’s amazing to see them step up and help out because they want to see not only themselves succeed but for others to succeed too,” Ms. Parsons-Beetschen said.

One of the teenagers leading the way for the youngsters is 16-year-old Mya Mosley.

For Mya, acting starting as a simple extracurricular activity but after six years with the Children’s Theater, it’s become more than a hobby.

Ace Clark as Marley’s ghost, left, and Nikolas Mandalas as Scrooge. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“Every year gets better than the last because you’re getting older so you have more experience and can try more new things and exercise your talent more,” she said. “It’s fun not only to see yourself improve and grow but to see that in other people too.”

In this version, Mya narrates the play, guiding the audience from scene to scene.

“It’s an interesting part because narration seems like just telling a story but in this play, there’s a lot of lines to memorize and the delivery is so important because you’re not just talking to a normal audience, you’re talking to an audience with a lot of young kids so you have to make it interesting and memorable for them,” she said.

For 15-year-old Shantai Napolitano, “A Christmas Carol” is a highlight of her time with the Children’s Theatre.

“All the shows are fun and have great costumes but there’s something special about this show and the old-fashioned costumes are just great and everyone loves them,” she said.

For high school senior Kaitlyn Clendaniel, “A Christmas Carol” will be her final performance with the Children’s Theatre.

“I started acting almost 10 years ago and fell in love with it immediately,” she said.

Kaitlyn plays the wife of Bob Cratchit, an employee of Scrooge’s. She’s soft spoken, obedient and docile.

“She’s nothing like I am,” Kaitlyn said. “But it’s fun to play her and the Disney version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ is one of my favorite movies so I’m just happy to be on stage, acting in such a great play,” she said.

It takes a lot of people working together to pull off a show like “A Dickens’ Christmas Carol.” The play has 39 performers making it one of the larger Children’s Theatre casts, especially for a non-musical.

“Large casts can be challenging because we have to break the rehearsals up because, especially at the beginning with the early rehearsals, because there are so many parts and it takes time to get each one practiced enough to bring it all together,” Ms. Beetschen Parsons said.

Carolers, from left to right back row, Anthony Quinene, Shantai Napolitano, Evy Laise. front row , Justin Truitt, Cassidy Okonewski, James Bowen and Makayla Steed. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Back to Schwartz

But this performance is taking more teamwork than ever as the Children’s Theatre returns to its regular performance space.

Several months ago, the Children’s Theatre family was saddened by the closing of the Schwartz Center and the inevitable task of finding a new home. But within the past couple weeks, a special arrangement was worked out so they could perform the play at the Schwartz.

The only stipulation of using the Schwartz Center was that the Children’s Theatre would need to staff the venue and all the necessary roles on its own.

Within 48 hours of learning the good news, every job to be had was filled by family and friends of the Children’s Theatre.

“It was only two weeks until the show and we were unsure if we’d get all the necessary roles filled but almost immediately, we had all the spaces filled,” Sharon Crossen of the Children’s Theatre said.

The Children’s Theatre is the first group to try running a show on its own at the Schwartz Center since its closing in June.

“The goal is to show that things like this can work at the Schwartz Center,” Ms. Crossen said. “We will put on a great show and leave the place looking even better than it did when we went in.”

The show is set for Saturday at 7 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $10 each and available at Eventbrite.com or at the door.

The Schwartz Center is at 226 S. State St.

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