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Curtains Up: The Endearing Tales of ‘A Christmas Carol’

Attending a performance of “A Christmas Carol” at Omaha Community Playhouse is a holiday tradition for many families. I’ve seen it a few times myself and can attest that there’s just something extra special about it. Just as we love being in the audience year after year, there are several people on stage and backstage who return each year, as well. Here’s a look at some of those individuals lending their talents to making “A Christmas Carol” the classic it is.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Omaha Community Playhouse. All thoughts, opinions and typos are my own. This post may contain affiliate links.

Scrooge, played by Cork Ramer, holds up Tiny Tim, played by Charlotte
Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

FYI: Omaha Community Playhouse presents “A Christmas Carol” Nov. 17 through Dec. 23, 2023 on the Hawks Mainstage Theatre. Tickets are available online or by calling the OCP Box Office at (402) 553-0800.

Never seen the show? Cast & crew members share their favorite scenes

“One of the greatest scenes in the show is the Fezziwig party. The ensemble gets a chance to interact with many others during ‘Dancing Day’ and enjoy each other’s company in ‘Susanni.’ It’s probably the point in the show that brings me the most joy. In the ‘Susanni’ circle, the guys will choose a random performance to give each of the ladies a wink as they pass by. It usually brings big smiles and even giggles.” – Brandon Fisher (sixth year in the cast, this year cast as the Beggar)

Brandon Fisher on stage as the Beggar in
Brandon Fisher as the Beggar/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“My favorite scenes are always going to be the ones where I am having a chat with Mr. Scrooge. I have played across from three amazing actors now, Dick Boyd, Jerry Longe and now Cork Ramer. The relationship between Past and Scrooge is enigmatic – Charles Jones once told me that Past is every woman in Scrooge’s history -his sister, his beloved, and his mother – as she leads him through a reflection of his life. So there is an arc within the scene itself and an arc within the years of my relationship with each of these men that is very much the same – from wariness, to playfulness, to deep and abiding love. It takes more than one season to develop. Maybe as much as five or ten. You have to be patient.  But oh my dears, the payoff. Eventually Scrooge always comes around and I’m right there for it at the end.” – Julie Huff (Ghost of Christmas Past for more than 20 years, and part of the cast off and on for almost 30 years)

“I like the last scene where Tim gets a horse and rides the horse. But not a real horse! A rocking horse.” – Charlotte “Charlie” Couch (Tiny Tim, 2022 & 2023)

Charlotte “Charlie” Couch/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“My favorite moment of A Christmas Carol is the opening scene. I loved being on stage with the whole cast as the music begins and the snow starts to fall. It is so exciting when the scrim goes up and we all come alive. Another part of the show I love is when I get to ride in or out on the Cratchit family table as the stage was set.” – Lila Rogers (Belinda Cratchit, 2022 & 2023)

Lila Rogers, on the right, plays Belinda Cratchit in
Lila Rogers (right)/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“As for my favorite scene, that is the hardest question. The first Counting House scenes are a joy. The character is so bloody mean. What a hoot. The Fezziwig party is an actor’s dream. All the emotions are displayed within this scene, and the sheer beauty of ‘Susani’ is wonderful. The lighting, the blocking, and the music can break your heart, and fill you with joy at the same time.” – Cork Ramer (Ebenezer Scrooge in 2023)

“Scrooge’s reconciliation with his nephew, Fred, near the end of the show. It’s the heart of the show right there, in Scrooge’s redemption & his acceptance back into the arms of his family.” – Jeanne Shelton (stage manager; part of the backstage set crew since the late 1970s)

“At one point before he makes his entrance into Scrooge’s quarters, Marley stands on a platform behind Scrooge’s mantle. Until my light comes up, the audience can’t see me, but I can see them. It is always fun to listen to the audience, particularly the children, titter and giggle as they watch Scrooge’s antics in front of the fireplace.” – Don Keelan-White (Jacob Marley since 2012)

Don Keenan-White, left, has played Jacob Marley in
Don Keelan-White (left)/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

Cast & crew memories

“I loved all the time I got to spend with my ‘Cratchit Family.’ Before every show, we would put our hands in youngest to oldest and cheer ‘Crachits’ before we went on stage. Every Sunday the cast would eat lunch together between shows. Some Sundays were onesie Sundays and almost everyone wore a funny onesie during the lunch break. Spending the Sunday afternoon with the other kids in the cast was always fun. Another fun thing that the cast does every year is a Secret Scrooge gift exchange. My favorite food of all time is Mac and Cheese. Last year my secret scrooge gave me 11 boxes of Mac and Cheese as one of my gifts!” – Lila Rogers

“I have a lot of favorite memories… being backstage during Intermission, during the Dick Boyd years, as we got Scrooge set up to fly, and got Christmas Present loaded on top of the bed; hiding glitter from Bob Snipp/Christmas Present so he couldn’t throw it all over the stage; getting Jerry Longe set at his desk for his first entrance as Scrooge; snatching Mary Peckham out from in front of the bed as it came offstage (the bed followed Crow & Dilber offstage in those days); lots more…”  – Jeanne Shelton

Jeanne Shelton has worked backstage at Omaha Community Playhouse's
Jeanne Shelton/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“We had so many laughs during the years that Miriam Boyd, Marianne Young, and Marion Priesman and I shared a dressing room. Some of the funniest things I don’t think I can share, but that Miriam Boyd was endearing and funny and made me laugh every day. I can share a memory of a year when Marianne Young was playing Mrs. Fezziwig. Mrs. Fezziwig comes to the ball with a giant wreath with a big red bow that gets handed off to some young man who climbs a ladder to hang it from the beams as the final decoration before the ball can begin. One year that bow started to unravel backstage I guess because when she sailed down center I could see a nearly invisible filament off the end flying behind her. That filament caught on the costume of the first person she passed and became a thread from the bow up on the beam that proceeded to wrap itself around every cast member on the stage. I watched it from where I stood with Dick Boyd off to the side as it encircled each person, they recognized they were trapped by something but couldn’t tell what it was, pulled hard and snared the next person. It was a comedy. I still have a piece of that filament in a tiny decorative box that Marianne gave me later.” – Julie Huff

Julie Huff plays Ghost of Christmas Present in Omaha Community Playhouse'
Julie Huff/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

“One of my favorite memories is the night Scrooge wasn’t asking Marley to sit down as the script dictates. Thoroughly puzzled, I turned to see that the platform with Scrooge’s chair and table had mistakenly been removed from the scene. There was nowhere for Marley to sit down! Of course, Scrooge and Marley had to think on their feet and figure out how to finish the scene without that pivotal furniture, but that’s live theatre! One of the most enduring memories is the experience of having the cast of signers dressed in black Victorian garb onstage with us, signing the entire production for the hearing-impaired guests in the audience. It’s quite a moving experience.” – Don Keelan-White

There’s a new Scrooge in 2023

It’s true, there’s a new Scrooge this year, but he’s not a stranger to the Omaha theater scene. Cork Ramer got a late start in life performing on stage – at age 33 –  but for more than half his life, he has taken on roles including Thenardier from “Les Miserables,” Bernadette from “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert,” King Arthur from “Camelot,” John Adams from “1776,” and The Ghost of Hamlet’s father from “Hamlet.”

“All of these were wonderful roles, but Scrooge carries a special place in my soul,” said Ramer.

Cork Ramer is cast as Scrooge in the 2023 production of
Cork Ramer/Photo courtesy Omaha Community Playhouse

In 2023, Ramer was cast as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at Omaha Community Playhouse, though he’s not a stranger to the role. He was an understudy for the role last year. The previous actor to play Scrooge, Jerry Longe, was in the role for 17 years. Prior to Longe, Dick Boyd played the role from 1976 through 2005. 

“Omaha has had two wonderful Scrooges. And, I have learned from both Dick and Jerry,” said Ramer. “I do think that I may be meaner and colder than some may be expecting. I revel in Scrooge’s mean side. It is a deep and very harsh mean side, indeed, and it is great fun to play. My physicality is quite different. I am tall and quite thin. I have an abundance of arms and legs, and I try to use them to their utmost throughout the show.”

Charlie Crouch, who is playing Tiny Tim for the second year in a row, said of Ramer, “It’s tough getting a new Scrooge but he has a very big sense of humor and makes me laugh all the time.”

If you go

“A Christmas Carol” runs Nov. 17 through Dec. 23, 2023 on the Hawks Mainstage Theatre at Omaha Community Playhouse, 6915 Cass St., Omaha. Tickets are available online or by calling the OCP Box Office at (402) 553-0800.

Want to bring your kids to the show? Read my review of “A Christmas Carol,” from a mom taking her second-grader to the show for the first time!

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