As the old saying goes, “The show must go on.” Due to COVID-19, the Alley Theatre decided to cancel this year’s live performances of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and opt for an online production.
That does not mean the show will be any less magical, however.
“The show is shot inside the actors’ own homes, [which allows] us to connect with the audience in a way that we have not done in the past,” says openly gay cast member Dylan Godwin. “It is a cool way to have a deeper connection with our audience.”
For this free streaming production, available to view online from December 4 to December 27, The Alley’s resident actors will be joined by additional Houston-area actors. After the costumed cast members record their individual parts in their homes, the show will be edited together.
This digital production of A Christmas Carol is being adapted by Doris Baizley and directed by Alley’s Associate Producer & Casting Director Brandon Weinbrenner. The cast includes Elizabeth Bunch as Ghost of Christmas Past/Mrs. Cratchit, Dylan Godwin as Ghost of Christmas Present/Clown, Shawn Hamilton as Mr. Fezziwig/Jake the Fence, Chris Hutchison as Bob Cratchit, Mack Hutchison as Tiny Tim/Prop Boy, Melissa Pritchett as Charitable Woman/Mrs. Fezziwig/Mother-in-Law, David Rainey as Scrooge/Stage Manager, Jay Sullivan as Fred, Raven Justine Troup as Belle/Mrs. Fred, and Todd Waite as Marley/Director.
Godwin is no stranger to A Christmas Carol. Having participated in the annual production for about ten years, he believes the play is more relevant than ever, and he hopes the timeless themes of hope and redemption will resonate with audiences on an even deeper level this year.
“With everything that is going on this year, I cannot stop thinking about A Christmas Carol,” he says. “It is a story about someone coming to terms with their life. It is about choosing to live life in a better, happier way.”
Despite being quite familiar with the show, this year’s digital production process has been anything but normal for the veteran actor.
“We are all stage actors, so performing in front of a camera is obviously very different,” he says. “It is a whole other beast. It is taking how you would usually perform for a 795-seat house and doing it for this camera that is filming right in your face. It is new territory for all of us.”
But that is precisely what will make the show even more appealing to viewers.
“While it is still fully costumed and fully designed, it is a different version from what people are used to seeing us do,” he says. “We have an amazing production team at The Alley. They have been delivering props, lights, cameras, wigs, costumes, and makeup to our homes. My apartment looks like a film set. That makes it a challenge, too. Usually, you can leave your work at the theater and come home. Well, we are, like, living in our work right now! It is something new, which is cool. It’s a fun challenge.”
Due to COVID-19, live theater companies worldwide have taken a hit. Even New York City’s Broadway productions are shuttered until next year, so Godwin feels grateful to get work as an actor right now.
“This has been a tough year for everyone,” he says. “It’s a shame to see our theater industry so fraught right now. It is an odd feeling, and a sad feeling. I feel really lucky to be working on something—to be able to create something. I feel really hopeful that the rest of our theater community will be able to return to work soon.”
Ultimately, Godwin hopes that after a year filled with so much isolation and political division, A Christmas Carol can provide audiences with some form of connection.
“I think at the beginning of this, everyone [missed] connecting with one another,” he says. “With the setting of this show being so personal, I am really hoping people can get a connection out of it. I just want to come away from this feeling a little bit closer to audiences.”
To view The Alley’s digital production of A Christmas Carol, register on the Alley Theatre’s website at alleytheatre.org.
This article appears in the December 2020 edition of OutSmart magazine.