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RED BANK: EITHER WAY, WE’RE SCROOGED

a_christmas_carol-6771101Nebraska Theatre Caravan’s stage spectacle of ‘A Christmas Carol’ makes its annual stand on the Count Basie stage this Friday…even as Middletown’s Stone Church Players offer up an intimate “radio-play” version of the Dickens classic all weekend long. Meantime, the Stone Church Players present an intimate “live radio play” style version of Scrooge’s story.

He creeps in from the shadowy fringes of the Season of Lights this time each year: the bitter old man of worldly business whose quiet Christmas Eve will soon be besieged by chain-rattling spirits and life-altering visions of the Past, Present and Yet To Come.

But even as we celebrate the forced re-entry of Ebenezer Scrooge into the mainstream of humanity, we do tend to take a certain comfort and joy from the knowledge that the miserly man-we-love-to-hate will be back all the earlier at his counting house, refreshed and rebooted, for the next day’s matinee. And so we welcome him once again this Friday night to Red Bank’s Count Basie Theatre.

That’s when and where the troupers of Nebraska Theater Caravan roll their wagons back into town for the seventh annual go of a show that’s become a staple of the seasonal schedule: their original staging of the Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol

Adapted by playwright Charles Jones — and incorporating instantly familiar hymns and carols like “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” “Away in a Manger” and “Greensleeves” — the big touring production boasts a cast of 23 players, a full orchestra, detailed costumes and some celebrated ghostly special effects designed by professional stage illusionists.

Take it here for tickets ($35.50 – $49.50) to the show that remains a timeless fable of redemption and the power of community — or go here for more info on the many upcoming holiday-themed events at the Basie, including A Holiday Doo Wop (12/3), the Company of Dance Arts presentation of Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker (12/9-11), and the return of The Vienna Boys Choir (12/12).

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One of the beauties of that well-roasted Dickensian chestnut is the fact that “A Christmas Carol” has retained its peculiar power when wrenched from the printed page and projected onto a screen; when jazzed into a high-kicking stage musical; when animated, Americanized, anthropomorphized (you know, with talking cartoon animals) or even scrooged down into a one-man show designed to “decrease the surplus population.”

Beginning Thursday and continuing for three performances over the coming weekend, the Middletown-based Stone Church Players wrap up their 2016 season with a festive bow as they present an intimate “live radio play” style version of Scrooge’s story, adapted by Joe Landry and presented inside All Saints’ Memorial (the historic “Old Stone Church” at the junction of Navesink and Monmouth Avenues).

A followup to the Players’ previous holiday radio-play presentations of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street,” the engagement features local community-theater stage stalwart John Maschio heading the cast under Christine Jay’s direction. Performances are Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with a 2 p.m. Sunday matinee on December 4 — and tickets ($10) can be reserved by calling (732)226-6131.

Remember: Nothing makes a Red Bank friend happier than to hear "I saw you on Red Bank Green!"
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