One word seems to sum up the feelings of actors in the Augusta Players’ upcoming production of A Christmas Carol: The Musical.
“Bittersweet,” said Eddie Renew, who is playing a role that is familiar to him as the Players take the stage Dec. 9-11 in honor and memory of the group’s artistic director emerita Debi Ballas, who died in October 2021.’
The Augusta Players’ first staged a musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens’ classic in 2008, and Renew performed in it each year as the lamplighter and Ghost of Christmas Past bringing Ebenezer Scrooge on his transformational Christmas Eve journey.
The last time the Augusta Players performed the show was in 2019.
“It’s been different every time I’ve done it,” said Renew, who called it an honor to be part of the show one more time. “It feels like something I had to do and ought to do.”
This performance has its share of differences, In some ways, it’s been the hardest year. He and fellow castmate Katie Reagan, who plays the hag and the Ghost of Christmas Future, say they can make it through the rehearsals until the finale when the cast sings God Bless Us Everyone.
That song was sung at Ballas’s wake and gets the two actors emotional each night. Despite the sadness they feel, there’s something about the musical that also brings the warm and festive feelings related to Christmas.
“There’s a lot of joy being in this show,” said Reagan, whose first experience with the musical came in 2009. She joined the cast with her father, Les Reagan, who was its musical director, and her mother, Kitty Reagan, who played Mrs. Fezziwig that year.
The show fosters a sense of family and community among cast members each Christmas. Reagan said she’s watched some of the actors practically grow up on stage as they returned each year to take on different roles.
“Some of the adults in the show now started as kids,” she said.
Over the years, some of the Christmas cast took part only because their family members were involved. Ballas even enlisted her own family members, putting her daughters and grandchildren into roles.
“Performing in A Christmas Carol is a rite of passage. It’s almost like you’re not really an Augusta Player until you do it,” said Claudia Ballas Latch, Ballas’s daughter who is directing the show with a cast of 66 performers.
Bringing her mother’s vision back to the stage has been an emotional journey for Latch, but she has a proverbial angel on her shoulders as she takes on the task.
Latch has been using her mother’s script with her handwritten notes.
Finding the book among Ballas’s belongings has made the task even more special, and it’s been comforting to see her mother’s directorial cues in her “beautiful” handwriting, she said.
“She was very detail-oriented,” Latch said.
While A Christmas Carol: A Musical wasn’t Ballas’s all-time favorite musical, it was one she loved, and Latch said it was one that many people associated with her.
“She loved Christmas. She was very religious, and she loved the symbolism and the meaning” in the musical, Latch said.
“A Christmas Carol: The Musical” will be performed at 8 p.m. Dec. 9 and 10 and 3 p.m. Dec. 11 at the Imperial Theatre. Tickets are available at augustaplayers.org.
Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Subscribe to the newsletter here.