The holiday season is around the corner, and Theatre Collingwood is gearing up to bring the magic of Charles Dickens' timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, to life once again with its annual staged reading.
The anticipated event, now in its fifth year, will take the stage on Dec. 14 at the First Presbyterian Church in Collingwood.
The unique production pays homage to radio plays of the past, offering a fresh take on the beloved story. Anne Raciunas, a key figure in the production of the show, describes it as “a love letter to traditional radio plays.”
“It’s really about sitting back and having the ability to close your eyes and immerse yourself in the story,” she said.
Raciunas, who has been involved with the show since its inception, serves as the foley artist, responsible for creating live sound effects on stage to accompany the reading. Everything is created on the spot, with no digital effects.
Every year the show features a different cast, comprising professional and community actors, as well as community figures and radio personalities. Raciunas said this year's cast is the largest ever, with 12 actors set to bring the story to life.
Dean Hollin, a local actor and sought-after personality in the field of entertainment, will once again take on the iconic role of Scrooge. He's been playing the role on and off for about two decades.
"Dickens is such a glorious storyteller," he says, "I love A Christmas Carol, it’s certainly a text I’m familiar with."
One of the unique aspects of this production is that it's a staged reading, allowing actors to bring the characters to life without the need to memorize lines. Hollin describes the experience as "magical," with each participant lifting their part off the page in their own unique way.
He also highlights the organic nature of the performance, as different voices and interpretations inspire actors to deliver their lines in new and unexpected ways.
"The text is the same, but think about all the different versions of A Christmas Carol that have been made over the years," Hollin said. "They all bring something different."
According to Raciunas, Theatre Collingwood makes conscious efforts to ensure that attendees who come year after year don't get the same experience.
With a different cast each year as well as a range of themes and variations in casting, costumes, and staging, the production manages to breathe new life into the classic tale while staying true to its heartwarming essence.
Hollin also said that as live entertainment, every performance carries a unique fingerprint.
"They cannot be identical, that's the beauty of live performances," he said. It's this unpredictability and the chance to explore different inflections and nuances in the text that keeps the journey fresh and exciting for him.
As he readies himself to portray the iconic character once again, Hollin anticipates the opportunity to share the heartwarming story with the Collingwood community. For him, A Christmas Carol is a tradition reminiscent of his favourite comfort food.
“I like to think of it as comfort food for the soul,” he said. “There are many things that we do repeatedly every year that have a romance to them. They become tradition.”
Hollin figures his enjoyment of the Christmas Carol reading tradition is shared by the wider community.
“Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without certain things,” said Hollin. “And I think for many in the community, this is one of those things.”
Raciunas mirrors this sentiment.
"It’s one of the shows that when you walk into the room, everyone is there to have a good time. Because it’s such a famous story, most people know how it ends, so everyone is looking forward to those happy Christmassy feelings," she said.
Raciunas sees the annual production as a gift to the community, offering a heartwarming and affordable holiday-themed event that brings families and friends together, while also serving as a fundraiser for the Actors Fund of Canada.
"It's an annual thing that people can look forward to and count on," Raciunas said.
Tickets for the holiday event are priced at $30 and can be found on Theatre Collingwood’s website. A small concession with treats will also be available.