MILFORD — The Second Street Players will get visitors in the holiday spirit with “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” starting Friday at the Riverfront Theater.
A sequel of sorts to Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” the production finds the famous penny pincher suing Jacob Marley and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future exactly one year after his miraculous transformation. The charges: breaking and entering, kidnapping, slander, pain and suffering, attempted murder and the intentional infliction of emotional distress.
And it seems Scrooge has gone back to his “humbug” ways, when Solomon Rothschild, England’s most charismatic and clever barrister, starts the defense by saying, “Merry Christmas,” to which Scrooge, representing himself, yells, “Objection!”
Everything might not be quite as it seems, however, as the show takes place over one day, in a courtroom overseen by Judge Stanchfield Pearson, played by Minor Hardin.
The heartfelt comedy, fun for the whole family, was written by Mark Brown in 2001 and features many of the characters “A Christmas Carol” fans know and love.
Guy Crawford is directing the play with Mike Amory. Mr. Crawford said this is the first time it has been done at Second Street and that it’s not the usual holiday fare seen in the area.
“Every year, you see the same shows all over the place — ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ things like that right at Christmastime — and it can get a bit stale,” said the director, who is also president of Second Street’s board of trustees.
“There is another one about Scrooge that we liked, but it was too short. And then, right after we picked this one, they changed it to a musical, which made it two hours long. But we do have some different ones in mind,” he said.
“Now, next year, we are going with a traditional one. It’s ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but it’s the Broadway musical version of it. We haven’t done ‘A Christmas Carol’ musical before. But then, the following year will be something completely different. It brings back people wanting to come see the Christmas shows but not the same old stuff.”
For “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” Second Street has put a twist on the already existing twist.
“This is set in 1844, which is also steampunk era. So we’re going to do this with a steampunk theme to it. There’s a potbelly stove that’s going to have the pipes and all that come out of it. We’ll see the gallery box raised up, so it makes it look like it’s floating, and steampunk costumes,” Mr. Crawford said.
Rest assured, though — Dickens fans will find much familiar about the staging and even some allusions to other works in the story and on the set, designed by the two directors.
Scrooge is played by area theater veteran Steven Twilley. It will be his first time playing the classic character on stage.
“About 18 years ago, I was in the holiday show here, and I played Kriss Kringle, so it’s quite the switch,” he said.
“As many different movie and stage and television adaptations as I’d seen of Dickens’ work, I had never read his novella. That was incredibly informative and really answers the questions that are asked up there, in terms of why he doesn’t like Christmas and why he pursued wealth. So they helped for me to (get to) the character.”
Mr. Twilley said he finds the storytelling in the show “creative.”
“(Mr. Brown) tells Dickens’ story in sequence but through the testimony of witnesses rather than the first experience through, and I think that’s incredibly clever. And then, the twist at the end is reaffirming of the holiday spirit,” he said, without spoilers.
Ralph Peluso plays Scrooge’s archrival in the courtroom, Mr. Rothschild. He, like Scrooge and a few others, is on stage the entirety of the show.
“It’s a pretty demanding part with a lot of lines. It is overall a challenging part, but it’s very fun, and we’ve got a great group I get to learn from every night,” he said.
The play has a few tests for the actors, as some portray more than one role. Kennedy Oaks has the most difficult of them all, playing three characters in the space of 15 minutes, who all testify on the stand. They each are part of Scrooge’s prior life — the Ghost of Christmas Past; Fan, Scrooge’s younger sister; and Belle, Scrooge’s ex-fiancee, not mentioned in the original work.
A longtime theater actress in several places around the country, Ms. Oaks specifically tried out for this complex role.
“I think, originally, they had it on their site that they were all combined into one, and that really appealed to me. I like to audition for something new and challenging, so that I can try and grow every time I do a show,” she said.
“Every time I go into a new character (on stage), I have a key phrase that I say to switch myself super quickly into what I’m doing — from body language to voice to the way I hold my chin and my arms and all of that, just from that key phrase.”
Mr. Twilley said he is enjoying working with the varied cast and crew.
“Guy and Mike are doing a terrific job. There’s so much talent on that stage. It’s a great combination of veterans like Susan (Newark) and Minor and then the newbies, like Kennedy and Isaiah (Lejeune) and others. So it’s a great mix,” he said.
The cast also includes Francisco Brizuela, Colby Crawford, Abby Roxby and Luette Muir.
All performances of “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge” will be at the Riverfront Theater, 2 S. Walnut St. in Milford Friday through Sunday and Dec. 2-4.
Friday and Saturday shows begin at 7 p.m., and Sunday shows begin at 2 p.m.
Seats are $20, with a $1 discount for seniors, military, students and Second Street members.
To purchase tickets or for information, visit secondstreetplayers.com.
On Small Business Saturday this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Riverfront Theater, Second Street Players will offer 2023 season tickets at a discount. Normally $85, they will sell for $65, while seniors’ tickets, normally $80, will sell for $60. The packages will be sold to in-person visitors only.
Second Street will present five shows next year: the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Gin Game,” the Neil Simon comedy “The Odd Couple,” the comedy musical “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” the mystery “Strictly Murder” and “A Christmas Carol: The Musical.”
For information, patrons may call 302-422-0220 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.