EXCLUSIVE With a roster of Broadway actors from such recent or on-pause productions as Waitress, Hadestown, The Play That Goes Wrong and Moulin Rouge!, a new musical inspired by A Christmas Carol and other works of Charles Dickens will make its streaming debut before Christmas utilizing technology to combine socially distanced performances.
Estella Scrooge, with a book and direction by Tony Award winner John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickelby) and music and lyrics by Paul Gordon (Tony-nominated for 2001’s Jane Eyre), will star Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) as the title character, the niece of Carol‘s Ebenezer Scrooge. Clifton Duncan (The Play That Goes Wrong) will costar as her childhood sweetheart Philip “Pip” Nickleby.
Those actors and others will film their performances – separately, live, and one at a time – this week, with green screen technology and virtual sets later bringing the cast together for what producers are calling an intricately story-boarded and fully realized musical. The project will not use the Zoom technology that’s become a new standard for COVID-era plays.
“I was talking with Kevin Surace, our Executive Producer, about how the ‘Brady Bunch Boxes’ while cool at first, were overstaying their welcome,” said Producer Michael Jackowitz, adding that he wanted to “shoot something in a safe, isolated fashion, but put everyone together in the same frame.”
Jackowitz said the team conducted an experiment to test the concept and were pleased with the results. Jackowitz, of Witzend Productions, will produce with David Bryant and Michael Alden, in partnership with Streaming Musicals.
The streaming platform and airdate will be announced later. Following the initial worldwide digital release of the musical, the literary property will be available for live stage theatrical licensing worldwide.
The musical is described as a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol with additional characters and plot lines from Great Expectations, Little Dorritt, Bleak House and other Dickens novels.
Wolfe plays Estella Scrooge, a young Wall Street tycoon with a penchant for foreclosing. A hotelier in her hometown of Pickwick, Ohio has defaulted on his mortgage loan and Estella fancies the idea of doing the deed personally. Arriving at Harthouse on Christmas Eve, Estella discovers that the defaulting party is none other than her childhood sweetheart, Pip Nickelby. Always the humanitarian, Pip has generously transformed the property into a refuge for the sick, dispossessed and homeless. A freak snowstorm forces Estella to take refuge herself, and that night, as happened to her ancestor Ebenezer long ago, she is haunted by three visitations.
Director and book writer Caird said in a statement, “I’m so happy to be bringing a new musical to life in these mad and maddening times. Though the whole creative team is having to learn new techniques to bring the actors and their characters together, it’s wonderful to be able to provide employment for the theatre community while we enliven the old Christmas Carol story with a new twist for today. At a time of great conflict and hardship, I hope we can shine a little ray of optimism into the surrounding darkness.”
Streaming Musicals Executive Producer Tom Polum said, “Streaming Musicals is pleased to be part of this groundbreaking new approach to recording an original musical. This is an incredibly talented and organized team of individuals striving to tell a story that is not only a reflection of our times, but a nod to great iconic figures of the past.”
Also in the large cast are Megan McGinnis (Little Women), Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill), Adam Halpin, Sarah Litzsinger, Tom Nelis, EM Grosland, Phoenix Best, David Bryant, Gabrielle Reid, Samuel Lee Roberts, Michael Francis McBride, Michele Lee, Kristen Faith Oei, William Youmans, Kevyn Morrow, Brooklyn Shuck, Joziyah Jean-Felix, and Willow McCarthy as ‘Tiny Tammy.’
Creative team includes musical supervision by Brad Haak, director of photography and editor Tyler Milliron, production art design by Zach Wilson, costume design by Somie Pak, hair and makeup design by Dena Olivieri, props design by Katherine White, and choreography by Natalie Lomonte. Executive producers are Kevin Surace, Allan Herzog and Jeffrey Grove in addition to Tom Polum and Stacia Fernandez (Streaming Musicals).