BETHEL, Conn. — A presentation of “A Christmas Carol" at Walnut Hill Community Church in Bethel includes some special cast members from neighboring Newtown.
For the first time ever, Walnut Hill joined forces with NewArts, a nonprofit organization formed after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook School, to produce a holiday show.
“The initial mission of NewArts is its desire to serve the kids in the community. That’s what initially attracted us to them,” said Tim Huber, Pastor of Worship and the Arts at Walnut Hill. “As a community church, this has given us a chance to connect even more deeply with the people who we call our friends and neighbors."
The church will host five productions of the two-hour show -- “A Christmas Carol" -- which was originally produced at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J., where it ran for 16 years.
“A Christmas Carol” combines performers from NewArts with congregants from Walnut Hill, as well as individuals from the community and established professionals.
Several prominent cast members in the production were at Sandy Hook School on the day of the tragedy, according to Huber. There are also some performers who lost family members and friends on that fateful day, he said.
In the three productions of the show that have already taken place, 1,300 tickets were sold.
In “A Christmas Carol,” there is a cast of 105 people ranging in age from 5 to 70.
“What is unique about this production is professionals are working alongside amateurs,” Huber said. “It’s a combination of volunteers and people on contract.”
Michael Unger, artistic director of NewArts and director of the former McCarter Theatre production of "A Christmas Carol," is also directing the production at Walnut Hill.
Aside from Unger, a half-dozen acting professionals are also involved in the Walnut Hill production.
One of these is Broadway actor James Ludwig, who plays the lead role of Scrooge. Ludwig starred in the original company of the Broadway musical “Spamalot,” as well as in “101 Dalmatians” and “Little Shop of Horrors.”
“Over the of five weeks James has worked with us, he has brought us his A-game with his extensive talent and experience," Huber said. “It has been a wonderful opportunity to see him work.”
Tony Award and Emmy Award winner Rob Ashford choreographed the original production and his choreography has been adapted for this presentation by Jennifer Paulsen Lee.
“Working with the folks from New York brings a new level of professional expectation and encouragement to folks to step up and do more, and give their best," Huber said. “This has brought in a new and exciting level of professional theater."
Walnut Hill Community Church has produced an annual Christmas show on its own for the past 17 years.
NewArts, which was founded by Newtown resident Michael Baroody, honors those who lost their lives on Dec. 14, 2012, by providing a venue that supports many forms of healing and positive change. Through NewArts, children in the Newtown community learn life skills through high-level performing.
“A Christmas Carol” will be performed Dec. 16, Dec. 17, Dec. 21 and Dec. 22 at 7 p.m. and Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at Walnut Hill Community Church, 156 Walnut Hill Road, Bethel.
Tickets, which range from $18 to $26 and $12 for children ages 12 and under, are available by clicking here or at the door. There is reserved seating.