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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Many Prince Edward Islanders are well-versed in “A Christmas Carol”, the story of Ebenezer Scrooge who becomes a better person after meeting three ghosts on Christmas Eve.
Now, the newly-formed Island Improv Company is taking the classic tale and changing it up a bit. Members are presenting the Charles Dickens’ story with a comedic twist.
“This is a silly Christmas Carol. If you’re coming to be heart-warmed, you’ll be disappointed,” says John Mazerolle, director of “An Improvised Christmas Carol”, an ACT (a Community Theatre) production that is hitting the boards at The Guild in Charlottetown on Dec. 13 and 20 at 8 p.m.
In the show, Scrooge is still a miser, but instead of being a money lender he could be managing a Starbucks or running a carwash or working as an interpretive dancer.
That’s because, unlike other interpretations of “A Christmas Carol", the audience makes the decisions.
“There are 24 instances where we ask the audience about what’s going to happen or for details or atmosphere about what a scene is going to be,” says Mazerolle, who is also the show’s narrator.
Spectators will be asked questions like: What ails Tiny Tim? What should Scrooge say instead of “bah humbug” and why Marley (Scrooge’s late business partner) isn’t condemned for all time?
Their answers will tweak the traditional tale, which first appeared in print in December of 1843.
“It’s a very familiar story. You can almost recite the piece by rote. But when you spice things up a little differently it can suddenly make it fresh and interesting,” says Noah Nazim, who plays Scrooge.
These tweaks will also make the story more relatable.
“We’re not tied down to the 19th century. So, a lot of conventional things can show up – like YouTube,” Nazim adds.
While audience input can turn “A Christmas Carol” into a contemporary play, it can create “dangerous” or unexpected situations for the performers.
It doesn’t matter how well it goes the first night, the unforeseen nature of improv leaves everything open to chance, Mazerolle says.
“So, we’re wondering what kind of challenges the audience will give us and what kind of suggestions we will get; things that we’ve never contemplated. But, as with any improv show, that makes it more alive.”
Nason Scribner, who plays Bob Cratchit, is up for the challenge. His years of acting as Gilbert Blythe and other characters at Avonlea Village led to improv encounters, especially when visitors asked him questions that required his character’s response.
“I’m excited. Cratchit and Scrooge are the two characters that are locked in the most in the show, so I’m busy researching the role,” Scribner says.
Mazerolle, who has done this show at another Maritime location, has his fingers crossed.
“I’m confident in my cast. Generally, there’s a little bit of nerves with a scripted production. But, generally you know when you’ve got this. There’s always a voice in your head, but it’s always louder because it’s improv.”
If you are going
- What: “An Improvised Christmas Carol”
- When and where: Dec. 13 and 20, 8 p.m., at The Guild in Charlottetown. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.
- On stage: The show features Island Improv Company members John Mazerolle, Noah Nazim, Johnny Novak, Nadine Salami, Nason Scribner and cast members Darlene Lund, Stacy Dunn, Sophie MacInnis and Sophia Ball.
- Extras: Show includes a Christmas sing-song and candy cane toss.
- Tickets: Available online or in person at The Guild.
Island Improv Company facts
- John Mazerolle started the group last February.
- After being part of “Raised on TV”, a sketch comedy show held at The Guild, he started to look for more opportunities. “I wanted to make an improv troupe, and there were already two well-established ones on P.E.I.”