A Christmas Carol is a story that has been told thousands of times in a thousand different ways.
The drama students at Springstead High School have been performing their own version of Charles Dickens' classic tale of greed, introspection and redemption in a musical format for the past dozen or so years, with great success.
This year, Springstead drama and choral director Mark Pennington and his students will unveil a slightly snazzier, Broadway-style version of the holiday chestnut.
"It's a bit livelier than the version we had been doing - more songs and more choreography," Pennington said of the production that opens Thursday. "The kids have worked very hard on it."
Pennington said he always admired the 1994 Broadway production penned by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, and felt it would be a great stage vehicle for his students. The only drawback was the musical accompaniment, which Pennington felt could not be adequately produced with live musicians. But thanks to a high-tech computer program and a new quadraphonic theater sound system, the students will be performing with what sounds like a full orchestra.
"A stage production should be larger than life," Pennington said. "I just felt that if we're going all out to bring this musical to the public, the music should be worthy of our efforts."
Indeed, Pennington prides himself in dressing his young thespians in handsome period costumes that are rented from a New York theatrical supplier. The expense is worth it, he says, because it boosts their confidence in playing a role.
For the 30 actors and 25 crew members involved, the annual production serves as a valued stepping stone in their high school drama career. Freshmen novices often start by singing in the chorus and move up to meatier roles as they gain experience.
Senior Mike Petrie, who has been playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge since his sophomore year, said he is looking forward to bringing a fresh version of the classic to the stage.
"All of the parts are totally different," said the 18-year-old. "The story goes a little bit deeper than the one we did in the past."
Sophomore Ashley Schoendorf, who plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, said that even though the story is time-worn, she can see why audiences still find relevance in it.
"The story deals with human nature," she said. "That's something that never changes."
Logan Neill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1435.
IF YOU GO
The Springstead High School drama and choral departments will present the Broadway musical adaptation of A Christmas Carol at 7 p.m. Dec. 7-10 at Springstead Theater, 3300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill. Admission is $7 for adults and $5 for students. Call 797-7010, ext. 221.