NEW PORT RICHEY — Jimmy Ferraro's Studio Theatre celebrates its second holiday season since opening in June 2014 with the musical comedy take on the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, this one named What in the Dickens Happened to Scrooge?
In the 1843 original, the stern taskmaster Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by ghosts and convinced to end his abuse of his employees.
In Brooksville playwright Jerry Cowling's version, set in an 1855 London counting house, Scrooge's employees get him drunk (but perhaps not as tipsy as they think), then they and their families put on little skits to make him see himself as the heartless tyrant that he is. In doing so, they learn a lot about themselves, too.
The musical debuted in 1985 in Austin, Texas, where Cowling played Bob Cratchit. In this production, he will take on Scrooge.
Cowling will lead a 10-member cast, the largest ever at Ferraro's 68-seat theater. Ferraro himself is directing the show, with musical direction by Tracie Callahan, a Studio Theatre veteran (Ain't Retirement Grand) who also will play Tessie, a good-natured woman who perennially requests donations for the poor from Scrooge and is regularly turned down. She's accompanied by her sister, Tillie, played by Myndee Fleury Washington.
Jared Michael Shari (Anthony in Holy Cannoli) plays Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's meek, middle-aged clerk and the frequent target of his employer's ire and disdain. Elizabeth S. Phillips (Ain't Food Wonderful) plays Mrs. Cratchit, a woman almost worn down by care but keeps a bright outlook.
The three Cratchit children are played by Holly Frendberg (Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker) as the shy, subdued Martha; Reed Morgan Washington (Studio Theatre debut) as bright-eyed Peter; and Nicholas Newman (debut) as the lame but game Tiny Tim.
Also in the cast are Christian Braz (debut) as Scrooge's nephew, Fred, who is much kinder than his uncle, and Marissa Jo Kraus (debut) as Fred's fiancee, Belle.
"This is the perfect holiday musical comedy," Ferraro said.