Changes are afoot at Draper Historic Theatre this holiday seasonDec 03, 2020 01:29PM ● By Katherine Weinstein
A reformed Scrooge (Cliff Harris) shares a laugh with his nephew, Fred (Richard Iverson) in a past production of “A Christmas Carol” at Draper Historic Theatre. (Photo courtesy Draper Historic Theatre)
By Katherine Weinstein | [email protected]
This holiday season is looking a little different for Draper Historic Theatre with a new theater company sharing the stage and changes to their original musical version of “A Christmas Carol.” In November, the Off Broadway Theatre presented a Muppet-like Dickens mash-up, “The Muffets Christmas Carol.” Draper Historic Theatre’s version of “A Christmas Carol” returns in December, but with a new song and two separate casts.
When the Off Broadway Theatre lost their performance space in Salt Lake City, they found a new home on the stage of Draper Historic Theatre last summer. “It’s a natural fit, a good partnership,” said Craig Haycock, who is chairman of the board at Draper Historic Theatre.
The Off Broadway Theatre will present six shows a year at Draper Historic Theatre, alternating monthly productions with Draper Historic Theatre and Lamplight Theatre Company. “Cutie and the Beast” and “Dracula vs. The Addams Family” were two of their first shows at the venue.
Co-founder and playwright, Eric Jensen, explained that the Off Broadway Theatre originated downtown Salt Lake City 25 years ago at the corner of 300 South (Broadway) and Main Street. “We decided to do shows that were bigger than life, that people hadn’t seen before,” he said. The Off Broadway Theatre specializes in original comic spoofs and parodies. “Our shows are for children and adults alike with jokes for young and old. They’re family-friendly comedies,” Jensen said.
In November, the Off Broadway Theatre staged “The Muffets Christmas Carol,” at Draper Historic Theatre. The show was a comic mash-up of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “A Christmas Carol” as played by characters similar to the Muppets.
“It’s such an awesome theater!” Jensen exclaimed. The Off Broadway Theatre’s mission statement is to inspire laughter, develop talent and foster learning through the creative expression of the theatrical arts. “We want to give people an experience—actors, tech people, stage management, volunteers—and let them know they are loved and important.”
That mission statement is in keeping with that of Draper Historic Theatre, which is also an educational theater.
This month, Draper Historic Theater will once again mount their original musical version of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” This will be the 10th time that the ever-evolving production has been presented.
“There are seven original songs in the show,” said director Craig Haycock. “This year we have a brand new song, ‘On My Way Home,’ sung by Bob Cratchit.” The script is re-worked every year and is in keeping with the spirit of Dickens.
Over the years, Draper Historic Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol” has become a beloved tradition for both audiences and actors who return to the cast each year. Haycock estimates that this year about half of the cast members have performed in past productions. Whole families enjoy being in the show together. “The Cratchit family is played by an actual family,” Haycock said.
The writers, directors, cast and crew are finding creative ways to keep the show going and address the logistical challenges posed by the pandemic.
“We are literally doing two productions,” Haycock said. There are two entirely separate casts that never meet each other and will perform on alternate days. “If someone gets sick, we can still put on the production,” he explained. This year, Cliff Harris, who has been playing Scrooge since the show premiered, is reprising his role in one cast. Jonathan Saul, who portrayed Bob Cratchit last year, will play Scrooge in the other cast.
The blocking of the show has changed in that groupings of two to three actors will be socially distanced from each other. When larger groups are on stage, everyone will be wearing masks. All of the actors will be at least 10 feet away from the audience.
“Our goal is to make sure that the actors stay safe and that the public stays safe,” Haycock said. “Between every performance and rehearsal we sanitize the whole place.” The theater conducts temperature checks and follows strict guidelines to minimize the possible spread of germs.
The pandemic shutdown last spring hit Draper Historic Theatre’s budget particularly hard, but the theater’s board members and everyone involved in the productions are working together to ensure that the show goes on. With its themes of empathy, charity and redemption, “A Christmas Carol” seems to be a fitting show for the times.
Draper Historic Theatre presents “A Christmas Carol” Dec. 4, 5, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19 and 21 at 7 p.m. Matinees are at 2 p.m. on Saturdays. Draper Historic Theatre is located at 12366 S. 900 East in Draper. For tickets visit www.drapertheatre.org or call 801-572-4144 during the run of the production.