The Backstage Theatre has outdone itself again — this time with a world premiere version of “A Christmas Carol” rendered completely with handmade puppets and masked actors.
“We weren’t interested in presenting ‘yet another version’ of ‘A Christmas Carol,’” said artistic director Christopher Willard. “We wanted to challenge our artists and inspire our audiences with a new way of experiencing a familiar story.”
Willard commissioned the adaptation, which streamlines the story to be told by five performers, from Josh Hartwell (a Curious Theatre Company Member and writer of Buntport’s Trunks series).
Hartwell also performs. Other actors include Brian Landis Folkins, Mackenzie Paulsen, Lindsey Pierce and Jim Hunt, an award-winner Denver actor, plays the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in the Backstage Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol.”
Hunt, an award-winning Denver actor, stars as Ebenezer Scrooge, while the others each play several characters, using puppets and larger-than-life masks created by Cory Gilstrap, designer for the Backstage’s multi-award-winning production of ‘The Hobbit.”
“There are various styles of puppetry in use for this production,” Willard said. “Most of the Ghost puppets are bunraku-style puppets that require two operators to bring them to life. We are using a rod-style (Muppet design) for the narrators. We’re utilizing full-size shadow puppets for the Fezziwig party and kite-style puppets for the phantoms that appear during the Marley scene. There is always a new and surprising puppet method being incorporated with every new section of the story being told.”
Acting with puppets and masks requires special techniques and training, which the performers underwent in Denver before coming up to Breckenridge.
“You have to breathe life into an inanimate object and to invest in it so completely that the audience believes that object is alive, a unique personality and full of character,” Willard said.
Last year, the Backstage Theatre delivered the sold-out hit, “A Christmas Story,” for the holidays, and this year’s production is anticipated to be no less popular.
“Even though this is a smaller cast version of the show, the scale of the theatrical effects is immense,” Willard said. “Set, lighting, costuming and puppet design are all more ambitious than we’ve done in our space. The process of bringing together these elements and folding them into a seamless storytelling has been really fascinating and rewarding to see. I think people will be amazed at how a traditional story takes on so much more emotion, immediacy and excitement by being told in a unique and different style … You’re really going to feel like you’re in a special type of Dickensian universe when you see this show.”
“A Christmas Carol” opens Friday, Nov. 16 and runs through Dec. 29 at the Breckenridge Theatre, 121 S. Ridge St., Breckenridge. Tickets to the champagne opening on Nov. 16 are $35 for adults, and $27 for kids 18 and younger. Subsequent shows cost $25 for adults and $17 for kids 18 and younger. Save by booking tickets online at www.backstagetheatre.org or call (970) 453-0199.