A Bristol Christmas Carol opens Dec. 20
From left, Katie Manchester as Mr. Scrooge, Kali Grace Rocha, 6, as Tiny Tim, Kevin Silva as Bob Cratchit and Abigail Creel, 9, as Beth Cratchit rehearse a scene at Linden Place on Monday.
This weekend, the Bristol Theater Company hopes to start a new tradition. Under the direction of Richard Bento, the community theater group will perform “A Christmas Carol.” The show opens Thursday night, Dec. 20, in front of a sold out audience at Linden Place, the Charles Dickens classic will be told. “The key is having a vision and seeing it come to life,” said Mr. Bento. This is the first time that the company has taken on this production, and, under Mr. Bento’s direction, will break from tradition. “It takes place in modern day, present London, with cockney accents” he said. Although he’s been directing for the past six or seven years, Mr. Bento said he is an actor first and puts the experiences he’s gained from both into his work. He described the process for this show as “taking a bunch of productions and put it together as one.” Adding music to “A Christmas Carol” was a challenge, he said, but one that also makes it unique to the local theater company. Included are selections from Clay Aiken and Alan Menken, who wrote music for recent Disney movies. Also included in the Bristol Theater Company’s version are female leads, with Katie Manchester playing Scrooge and Kali Grace Rocha in the role of Tiny Tim. While the music adds to the story, Mr. Bento said that having a female in the role of Scrooge makes the delivery more challenging for the actor. “Scrooge cannot have a pretty voice,” he said. “Katie had to learn to have a nitty-gritty voice.” Ms. Manchester, who is a formally trained vocalist, said that it’s not so much the voice that is the challenge, but the sentiment. “Men have an easier time coming across crass and cranky. Christmas is as much fun to me as Disney. It’s hard to be cranky,” she said. Having a winter performance is also a first for the Bristol Theater Company, Mr. Bento said. After focusing on summer theater, officials decided to expand shows into the cold weather months. “Our board of directors talked about doing a winter show,” he said. “This show is such a great family tradition. We wanted to make it so people can come see the show and make it an affordable tradition.” Using the Children’s Workshop in Warren for rehearsal space, the actors developed into their roles a couple of days a week. “We beefed it up in November to three times a week,” Mr. Bento said. Leading up to show time, the theater group moved dress rehearsals to Linden Place. The show will run Thursday through Sunday, with a matinee added to Saturday’s schedule. All but the Saturday matinee show were sold out as of Wednesday. Tickets prices for all shows are $15 for adults and $10 for children.