The latest theater production at The Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC) promises a double dose of holiday magic that will make the Grinch’s heart grow three more sizes.
Back-to-back performances of “A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage” and “A Seussified Christmas Carol” are set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 17, 2021, and Saturday, Dec. 18, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19, in the Catherine M. Bellamy Theater at ASC, 701 S. Main St. The production is sponsored by Simmons Bank.
The short, one-act plays featuring young casts are appropriate for families and children of all ages. The performances will include a 15-minute intermission between the plays.
In keeping with ASC’s COVID safety measures, visitors ages 2 and older are required to wear masks over the nose and mouth at all times. No concessions will be sold at these performances.
‘A Charlie Brown Christmas: Live on Stage’
A faithful stage adaptation of the 1965 animated television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” finds Charlie Brown (Baylor Groomes) depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy (Skyler McKinley) suggests he direct a Christmas play, but his best efforts are mocked when he picks a puny Christmas tree as a centerpiece. With the help of his best friend, Linus (Brandt Lunsford), Charlie Brown learns the true meaning of Christmas.
The play includes the rest of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved “Peanuts” characters: Snoopy (Rory Lake), Pig Pen (Karson Persons), Frieda (Lily Jennings), Schroeder (Victor Trammell), Violet (Loren Bell), Sally (Violet Jennings), Patty (Anniston Wright) and Shermy (Aaron Trammell). The casting of young actors on stage is in keeping with the spirit of the original special.
“We cast this show deliberately with younger kids because that’s what they did in the television special,” explained director Jonathan Hoover. “That was one of the things people really responded to; it was one of the things that gave it charm.”
Hoover spoke highly of the actors. “This cast, there’s a lot of talent. They bring these characters to life. They have the perfect delivery; they’ve got ‘it.’”
The stage adaptation was written by Eric Shaeffer in 2013, and features Vince Guaraldi’s jazz score from the television special.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is “one of those things that fills people with all sorts of emotion and sentiment and nostalgia,” Hoover said. “Just positive feelings. And I think that’s a good thing.”
‘A Seussified Christmas Carol’
The second play is a whimsical reinvention of Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas tale — in wacky rhymed couplets. Written by Peter Bloedel, the show is an imaginative interpretation of what Dr. Seuss might have come up if he had his way with “A Christmas Carol.”
Elderly miser The Scrooge (Will Young) is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley (Keiren Minter), and the spirits of Christmas Past (Kaleigh Persons), Christmas Present (Violet Jennings) and Christmas Future (Minter). Their visits help transform Scrooge into a kinder, gentler man.
The rest of the “A Seussified Christmas Carol” cast includes Lance Beckman, Arin Bell, Loren Bell, Addyson Booker, Latailyn Craig, Addison Dean, Crystal Jennings, Lily Jennings, Damir Johnson, Rory Lake, Brandt Lunsford, Skyler McKinley, Manson Nesby, Matthew Nguyen, Jessica Persons, Karson Persons, Kionti Small, Adrian Trammell, Zuri Trammell, Will Witt and Anniston Wright.
Dana Edwards is making her ASC directorial debut. “This has been such a fun show to direct,” Edwards said. “I think the audience will really enjoy this adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ The costumes and set are really playful and colorful, which I think young and old will enjoy. The entire show also rhymes, which is very fun.”
Tickets are available at asc701.org, by calling 870-536-3375, or purchasing in person. Tickets are $13 for ASC members and seniors, $18 for nonmembers, and $10 for students. Each ticket provides admittance into both plays.
“Anyone who buys a ticket to see this double feature, they’re going to leave with smiles on their faces and that’s what I’m all about up here,” Hoover said. “I hope anybody who comes to see it is entertained. If they are, it’s all worth it.”