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For the second time in two years, Billings actor Vincent Raye has grown out his silvery beard and put on a surly face to play Ebenezer Scrooge at Venture Theatre.

But this time, Raye is playing a gentler version of the old curmudgeon he portrayed in “Jacob Marley's Christmas.” Scrooge is still a workaholic miser as his creator Charles Dickens intended. But there is humor in his gruffness in Venture's staging of “A Christmas Carol.” For example, Raye does a kick line on top of his bed with the ghost of his dead business partner, Marley, played by Kyle Trott.

“It's musical theater,” Raye said. “It has its dark sides, but it has more light than 'Jacob Marley's Christmas.'”

Director Robert Wood said the idea was to stay true to the Dickens' tale about redemption but add a lighter touch to the musical by including more children and more comedy.

“We're trying to play with it and exploit the fun,” Wood said during rehearsal Monday. “It's mostly how I interpreted the script. It's about finding the fun.”

Thirty kids were added to the adult chorus making the big numbers, well, bigger. Raye said having kids in the show added to the energy, even if there were more people to maneuver around on stage. Raye complimented Wood for working on the educational aspect of staging a musical.

“I've been acting since the 1970s, for almost 40 years, and Robert is teaching me stuff, which is great,” Raye said.

Zach Sheets and Angela Fulkerson play Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Cratchit, a switch from the last show the two actors did together, which was “Hair.”

“My singing confidence is up after doing 'Hair,'” Fulkerson said.

Sheets adds, “It's crazy to go from 'Hair' to such a classic story as 'Christmas Carol.'”

Based on Charles Dickens' 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol” adds music and dancing to the tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, who is opposed to holiday cheer and indifferent to the sufferings of the poor in Victorian London.

Scrooge is visited by four ghosts who offer him the opportunity to connect with his fellow man. Among Dickens' famous characters in the production is the sickly son of the Cratchits, Tiny Tim, who will be played by two young girls, Jordyn Sartorie and Morgan Craig.

Steve Zediker plays the Ghost of Christmas Present, Nan Edmonds is the Ghost of Christmas Past, and Kevin Schweigert is the spirited Fezziwig.

Cassidy Gamsby Seeman is music director and Kristie Ziegler Martin choreographs. Paul Jangula recreates London of the 1800s with set design and surprise special effects for the ghosts. Longtime Billings costumer and actor Gary Treglown recreated the Victorian era in dozens of costumes for the production.

Contact Jaci Webb at 657-1359 or jwebb@billingsgazette.com

Contact Jaci Webb at 657-1359 or jwebb@billingsgazette.com

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