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Lake Country Players stage heartfelt 'Christmas Carol'
Rick Richter's role as Scrooge hits the mark

By JULIE McHALE - TimeOut Theater Critic

December 12, 2013

 
WAUKESHA - Many theaters have Christmas traditions. The Lake Country Playhouse is repeating Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” because it was such a hit last year.  

This is a musical version by Michael Koscinski and Ernest Brusubardis, which was first performed in 2004 at Oconomowoc Middle School, followed by subsequent productions at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center in Brookfield and Mount Mary College in Wauwatosa. It is gratifying to see and hear this lovely version alive again on another stage in this area.

Rick Richter has reprised his role as Scrooge, and well he should since his re-creation of this iconic character is so compelling. The transformation is complete.   

This handsome actor, who has often played romantic leads, many in musicals, has immersed himself in this role as the selfish, greedy curmudgeon, who is given another chance in life after being visited by his dead partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him that he will suffer the consequences if he continues to lead the life he is leading. Paul Weir is a scary Jacob.  

Scrooge then encounters Christmas Past (Emma Estenson), where he has a chance to watch himself in his youth making some of the decisions he made, one of which was to make as much money as he could, whatever the ethical ramifications. He also meets up again with Belle (beautifully played by Jamie Nyland), whom he loved, but who eventually left him when she realized that he was more in love with money than he was with her.  

Christmas Present (Mike Crowley) takes Scrooge to scenes of merriment and celebration, featuring the Crachit family gathering, the Fezziwigs  factory and the home of his nephew Fred (Bryan Noll) and his wife. Scrooge begins to realize his alienation from all his relatives and friends, all because of some of his life choices.   

Richter is good at recording some of these realizations and communicating them through his body language.  

By the time Christmas To Come arrives, Scrooge is full of regret and fear. He vows that he will change before it is too late. This transformation, beginning with his reaction when his housekeeper Mrs. Shelby enters his room on Christmas morning, lightens the mood in the story. Love and joy begin to radiate from this man who has been frozen in his greed and solitude for years.  

Musically, the large ensemble, delivered. Twenty actors had speaking roles and 11 more added their voices as townspeople.  Standouts in the cast include Richter; Nyland, who plays both Belle and Catherine, Fred’s wife; and Bryan Noll, who plays Scrooge’s persistent nephew Fred. Old Joe, humorously rendered by Richard Levine, had a jolly time gloating over Scrooge’s “effects” with Mrs. Shelby after his imagined death.  

Overall, the music, the acting, the costumes, coordinated by Rosanne Fasi, the choregraphy by Jamie Mastrocolo, set design and construction by Verne Thieme and Ron Erhrich - all combine to offer us a heartfelt experience. Bob Hurd directed with the help of Barb Christensen and Cathy Pfieler.   

There is a cadre of faithful artists and workers that combine their talents at the Lake Country Playhouse with an impressive degree of dedication, which accounts for the fine productions put out at that small community theater. The musical runs one more weekend.  

“A Christmas Carol” runs through Sunday at the Lake Country Playhouse, 221 E. Capitol Drive, Hartland. Show times are 7:30 p.m. tonight, Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. For tickets, call 367-4697 or visit www.lakecounryplayhouse.net