Renegade turns ‘A Christmas Carol’ into giant feastTeatro Zuccone’s resident theater company is eschewing its traditional edgier fare in favor of a dinner-theater version of “A Christmas Carol” called “Fezziwig’s Feast.”
The name of the game for Renegade this holiday season is “chance of pace.” Teatro Zuccone’s resident theater company is eschewing its traditional edgier fare in favor of a dinner-theater version of “A Christmas Carol” called “Fezziwig’s Feast.” Not only that but Renegade will be tackling the Dickens classic in a new space: West Duluth’s Clyde Event Center.
“It is true that ‘A Christmas Carol’ is a lot more straight-laced than our normal Christmas fare (Dink Tank sketch comedy), but that was kind of what we liked about it,” said Katy Helbacka, Renegade’s artistic director. “Our home space, Teatro Zuccone, was being used this holiday season for ‘Man of La Mancha,’ so we had the opportunity to experiment and do something completely different than we usually do — hence, a family friendly dinner theater show!
“Plus, ‘A Christmas Carol’ offers us a chance to do the type of theater we love: It’s exciting, magical and a little scary.”
The show’s director, Anika Thompson, concurred.
“Personally, I absolutely love ‘A Christmas Carol,’” she told the Budgeteer. “Growing up, I had a cassette tape of a radio drama, narrated by Orson Welles and with Lionel Barrymore as Scrooge, that I would listen to all the time — so I think I have always secretly wanted to do this show, though it’s not my normal type of play to choose. When Katy brought it to me and asked me to direct, I didn’t hesitate.”
As far as Renegade’s choosing to do “A Christmas Carol,” Thompson said they’re always trying to do new things and reach new audiences.
“This presented the perfect opportunity to be more ‘family-friendly’ and it is a good change of pace,” she said. “At the same time last year, we produced ‘The Crane Wife’ — which I also directed — and it too was a holiday show for the entire family.
“I feel the direction our theater company is going is to produce quality theater, no matter what genre it may fall into.”
Helbacka said that the dinner-theater version of “A Christmas Carol” stays “very true” to the Dickens original.
“The basic premise is that the audience members are guests at Mr. Fezziwig’s yearly Christmas party being held in his factory,” she said. “But tonight there is a special surprise, because Mr. Fezziwig has a brand-new story written by his friend Charles Dickens called ‘A Christmas Carol’ and the Fezziwig family is going to act out the story while their guests dine.”
“It gives it a homey, comfortable feeling,” Thompson added.
As mentioned earlier, Renegade had to stage “Fezziwig’s Feast” away from its home base of Teatro Zuccone because of Zeitgeist Arts’ production of “Man of La Mancha.” But Helbacka said they’re making it work.
“Everything is in its place [at Teatro] and the builds take less time because we have our systems in place and know exactly where everything is,” she explained. “So it was a challenge to be in a new space, especially since we had to bring in so much equipment that we usually just take for granted that it will be there.
“… That said, the folks at Clyde Iron were so kind to us crazy theater folk. We really took over and they were patient with us — and gave us lots of free pop.”
Another challenge for this production was the dinner-theater aspect.
“This being my first attempt at directing [such a] show, I was a little concerned about that,” Thompson said. “But ‘Fezziwig’s Feast’ has a wonderful cast and I know they’ll do just fine.
“Last week we rehearsed while aerial dancers — not connected to our show — practiced in the back of the same room and no one missed a beat. Any cast that can stay focused and in character while that is going on can handle clanking dishes. This cast has been one of the most dedicated and professional group of people I have worked with.”
Helbacka felt similarly ready to tackle the possibility of clanking dishes.
“I, myself, have never done dinner theater, so it will be new for me,” she said. “I’m that person who does the ‘Ssssshhhhh…’ if anyone talks in the movie theater. I hate that!
“But we are all prepared and ready to be distracted. I think it’s part of the experience, and it will be a good one for all of us to have under our belts.”
NEWS TO USE
“Fezziwig’s Feast,” the dinner-theater version of “A Christmas Carol,” will be staged by Renegade and St. Paul’s Actors Theatre of Minnesota Dec. 3-5, 10-12 and 17-19 at Clyde Event Center. Friday and Saturday shows are at 7 p.m., Sunday shows are at 5 p.m. Cost is $49.95 for the play and a five-course meal. Call 590-1634.
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