As Houston nears the winter holidays and life continues to slowly get back to the normal that existed before we were visited by Hurricane Harvey, it’s appropriate that one of the most lasting and welcomed traditions of the city will return: A Christmas Carol at the Alley Theatre.
“From the theater’s perspective that’s the celebratory aspect of this production that it’s marking our return back into the theater after having been ousted by the storm,” says Alley company actor Jeffrey Bean who will mark his tenth turn in the Ebeneezer Scrooge role this year (and even more years that he’s acted in the annual production). “It never gets old. I’m almost sort of amazed what Dickens has created in this character. It always has something left for me to discover, or something to hit me anew.”
The Charles Dickens story of an isolated and bitter man who (prompted by ghosts) finally finds the joys of community in the town he lives in is especially appropriate this year, Bean says.
“This play which is really about someone discovering the importance of community is an appropriate play to be doing at a time when Houston itself is discovering the importance of community," Bean says. "And one of the things we’ve seen repeatedly on the news is communities bonding and banding together to rebuild at the end of the day that’s one of the elements of this story.”
Some things will be different about the play this year, although they may be difficult for audience members to spot them.
“We didn’t lose any costumes because our costumes are stored upstairs,” Bean says. “We did lose about 90 percent of our props storage which was stored down below and was flooded. So almost every prop in this production has been rebuilt from scratch. So that was a pretty devastating loss. I keep finding myself picking up props and it’s a bit jarring because they’re slightly different and they feel different in the hand. That was about 50 years worth of props gone.”
The play has a cast of more than 40 members, 20 of whom are kids. As in years past there will be several matinee performances which brings in the schools on field trips. Overall there will be about as many performances as in years past but to manage that, they be doing two nine-show weeks and three ten-show weeks, Bean says.
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“I’m not sure I’ve ever done a 10 show week as Scrooge,” Bean says. “It’ll be interesting to see the toll that it takes.”
Bean says he hopes that a lot of people will turn out, bringing their families this year as in years past. “I think that this is a marvelous holiday tradition for a lot of families in this town. It’s a spectacular production. It’s very funny; it’s very moving; it’s beautiful to look at. We work very hard to keep it fresh year to year.”
“It’s a familiar story but also a surprising story at times.”
Performances are scheduled for November 24 through December 30 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Sundays and 2:30 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays at the Alley Theatre, 615 Texas. For information, call 713-220-5700 or visit alleytheatre.org. $26-$103.