By Barbara River Holmes
Saturday, November 8, 2008
"A TRULY PEHNOMENAL SOUTHERN CHRISTMAS STORY”
By Barbara River Holmes
(From THE ALBANY HERALD, [Albany, Georgia], December 5, 2003)
“As a dear friend would say, "lovely."
There is no other single word to describe the Colquitt/ Miller Arts Council's first professional production, "A Southern Christmas Carol." Though the mastermind of 1843's "A Christmas Carol," Charles Dickens himself couldn't have written a better account of the spirit of Christmas. At least not Christmas in 1933 Depression-ridden Southwest Georgia.
"Daddy's family lost everything in the war," says Belle (Katie Wiegers), Scrooge's once fiancée, in a coy, sad and graceful Southern slur. "The whole lot of them ain't nothin' but sharecroppers now.”
…Written by Rob. Lauer, musically arranged by Steve Hacker and choreographed by Atlanta's Karen Beyer, "A Southern Christmas Carol" brings Dickens' tale of greed and giving one step closer to home, making Ebenezer Scrooge a wealthy cotton gin owner. "Bah, horse hockey!" the cold-hearted Scrooge (Peter Lewis — fabulous! hilarious! believable!) groans before his transformation into a Christian man willing to give his money to help those, as he says, inflating the surplus — that is, the poor.
Meant to explore some Southern themes like agriculture, racism and poverty, Lauer's play pays close attention to detail: cotton, overalls, accents, home-brewed liquor, biscuits, square dancing, gospel singing, Southern hostility and hospitality, “ain'ts” and hope chests, pork and collards. The 10-actor cast portrays 25 characters phenomenally, including the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet-To-Be, farmers and Scrooge's maid, a woman named Eppie whom the old man just calls "girl." …"Yessuh, Mr. Scrooge sir," she often replies as Scrooge beats her down with his demoralizing words of superiority. …Though most of the world knows how Dickens' story ends, Lauer did such an excellent job of tailoring the original story to fit the South that one is eager to see how this story will end. The traditional and original music adds so much to Dickens' and Lauer's funny, sad yet inspiring story. Often the crowd was in laughter or tears.
…This season, treat yourself and your loved ones to something truly beautiful, honest and original and head to Colquitt for "A Southern Christmas Carol." You won't be sorry!
(PICTURED ABOVE: Peter Lewis as 'Old Man Scrooge' and Jimmy Bishop as 'The Ghost of Christmas Present' in the original 2003 production of "A Southern Christmas Carol.")