The Holidays are exciting. And draining. Also joyful, stressful, bountiful and, well, just full. Once you’re a parent, the Holidays become even more so because of the natural desire to make the season magical for your children. We introduce traditions from our own childhoods and seek out entertainment and festivity as a way to celebrate the season and forge lasting memories. I, for one, am pretty glad about all the fuss. Since my husband and I are raising our kids thousands of miles away from our own families, the traditions we cultivate here in Columbus seem all the more precious.
Last year I decided to inject some holiday magic from my own childhood memories, and fired up “A Muppet Christmas Carol” on Netflix for my young kids. They loved it. My son, whose middle name is Michael, even ardently (if briefly) believed that his full middle name was “Michael Caine,” after the venerable British actor who plays Scrooge in the movie. Something about the simultaneous whimsy and gravity with which Dickens’ classic tale was portrayed in that movie really stuck with my kids. This is why I am so, so excited about a brand new live adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” that’s about to hit the streets of Uptown Westerville on Nov. 26.
Presented by Good Medicine Productions and the Westerville Uptown Merchants Association, “Uptown Scrooge” is an incredibly unique retelling of the story, re-staged as an interactive walking tour through the streets and shops of beautiful, historic Uptown Westerville. Guided along by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future, the audience gets to embody the role of Scrooge, experiencing his journey of regret, resistance and redemption. With puppets. And dancing. And singing. And lots of laughter. The show runs Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Nov. 26 – Dec. 18, and is perfect for ages 5 and above.
It gets better. “Uptown Scrooge” was written and created by a local mom. Kristie Koehler Vuocolo grew up in Westerville but moved to Chicago for college and ended up living and working there as a professional actor for nearly 20 years. After the birth of her daughter, she and her husband decided to move back home to Westerville to be closer to family. Tragically, not long after their move, Kristie’s mother passed away suddenly. As she tells it:
…And everything turned upside down. And then I got pregnant again, somewhat unexpectedly. And for while I lived in a fog of grief and new baby haze in Uptown Westerville. My hometown didn’t feel much like home. Until last Christmas, when my husband left me a note in my stocking that said, “Never feel stuck. Go see ‘Hamilton’ and make some art in 2016.” That directive took me on a pilgrimage to New York City in a blizzard that shut down Broadway, to Boston where I witnessed comedians healing sick children…on to Millersburg, Ohio, where I watched Chicago Theater Artists take on Amish Country and back to Chicago where I saw a one-woman show performed in a bathtub and finally back to NYC to indeed see ‘Hamilton: An American Musical’. That journey, instigated by simple acts of love from my husband and my artist family, resulted in the creation of ‘Uptown Scrooge’.
And it’s not just a story. Kristie’s reawakening to the love, hope and new life surrounding her is palpable in the production she has created. The joy and redemption that Scrooge feels at the end of the tale parallels her own journey, and likely, the journeys of many of us. In fact, “Uptown Scrooge’s” finale, replete with red and green sequins, pounding music and a stunning dance number by students of Generations Performing Arts Center, is one of the most life-affirming spectacles I’ve witnessed.
Kids (school age and older) are sure to love the show too. The cast of professional actors is so talented and funny! My 7-year-old daughter came with me to a recent rehearsal and could not get enough of the songs, pratfalls and comedic tomfoolery. Oh, and the costumes. So if you’re looking to start a new family tradition this holiday season that doesn’t involve wandering the aisles of big box stores, searching for elusive must-have toys, try “Uptown Scrooge” on for size. You won’t be disappointed!
“Uptown Scrooge” will run Saturday and Sunday afternoons, Nov. 26 – Dec. 18, 2016. Tour times are 1 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 2 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Each performance lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and children. Tour check-in is at 23 E. College Ave. Westerville, OH 43081. A portion of proceeds from “Uptown Scrooge” directly benefits the signature programming of Good Medicine, which serves pediatric and senior living facilities. For tickets and more information visit GoodMedicineProductions.org or call 614-776-4082.