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Columbus to welcome company of ‘A Christmas Carol’ onstage

Courtesy of Nebraska Theatre Caravan

A Columbus stage is set to frost over this weekend with the performance of a Christmas classic.

Charles Dickens’ holiday classic “A Christmas Carol” is slated to hit the Palace Theatre stage Friday through Sunday as part of the Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s annual tour.

The Nebraska Theatre Caravan is the Omaha Community Playhouse’s touring leg that has been touring with “A Christmas Carol” since 1979. Formed in 1924, the Playhouse has been staging plays for 88 years.

Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic is the story of Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from an angry miser to a holiday believer due to visits from the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future.

The caravan consists of 24 actors, three musicians, one music director and several technicians.

Russell Matthews, a 25-year-old actor in his fourth tour with the company, plays both Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and Christmas Future. Matthews said he appreciates the strong contrast his character has to Scrooge.

“Fred is the kind of man that, even though his uncle treats him as badly as he could treat anyone, he still cares about him and wants only the best for his uncle. I like that a lot about him,” Matthews said.

Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s version of the classic is an adaptation written by Charles Jones, a former director of Omaha Community Playhouse, in 1976. Jones also formed the Nebraska Theatre Caravan in 1975.

“The Nebraska Theatre Caravan was only supposed to be a one-year engagement, but it did so well that it expanded and had two and, at one time, three tours a year,” said Lora Kaup, director of sales and events at the Omaha Community Playhouse. “Charles Jones took this small community playhouse and transformed it into the largest community playhouse in the country.”

Kaup said the caravan has only one tour this year and will have two tours next year, a cutback that happened because of the slow economy and fewer yearly subscribers, or annual ticket holders.

“At one time we had 12,000 to 15,000 subscribers but presently the playhouse has 5,000 subscribers, which is still a large number for a community playhouse,” Kaup said.

The Caravan, over the last 37 years, has performed in 49 states and four Canadian provinces, and the Columbus Association of the Performing Arts has brought “A Christmas Carol” to the Columbus community for more than 30 years.

Brian Boyd, a regular theatergoer and Columbus resident, said he prefers shows at the Palace Theatre over other local venues.

“The theater can be full but it is still comfortable and intimate,” Boyd said. “The acoustics are great, the sound is fantastic and it is absolutely beautiful.”

Matthews said the Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” is worth the trip to the theater.

“Our production really brings a sense of warmth to it. We’ve got a spectacular cast this year, there are some great performances going on with these roles, and we all care about each other a lot and that comes across to an audience,” Matthews said. “That’s what this play is all about.”

The Palace Theatre is located at 34 W. Broad St. in downtown Columbus. “A Christmas Carol” is scheduled to be performed at 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets range from $22 to $32 and are available through Ticketmaster.

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