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Favorites return for ‘A Christmas Carol’ at North Shore Music Theatre

Stoneham Theatre presents an unusal version of “The Nutcracker’’ through Dec. 22. Above, a scene from the 2010 production at The House Theatre of Chicago, where the show was developed. Stoneham Theatre presents an unusal version of “The Nutcracker’’ through Dec. 22. Above, a scene from the 2010 production at The House Theatre of Chicago, where the show was developed. (Michael brosilow)
By Wendy Killeen
November 27, 2011
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“A Christmas Carol’’ returns to North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly this year, as do two popular performers: Leigh Barrett and David Coffee.

The show runs Friday through Dec. 23.

Barrett, of Reading, appeared in North Shore’s first production of “A Christmas Carol’’ in 1989. She was originally cast as a caroler, but the night before the first preview, the actress playing Fred’s wife, Meg, broke her foot and Barrett took the role. Also during that show, the Ghost of Christmas Past lost her voice and Barrett sang backstage for her.

Barrett earned her Equity card with that 1989 show, which launched her acting career in Boston.

She returns this year to play Mrs. Cratchit and the Ghost of Christmas Past.

Coffee is back on the North Shore stage playing Ebenezer Scrooge for the 18th time. The cast of 30 also features young performers from many local communities.

With special effects, traditional and original songs, and colorful costumes, the musical is an original adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic by Jon Kimbell, the theater’s former artistic director.

“It is wonderful to see generations of families and friends coming together to experience such a heart-warming holiday tradition,’’ said Bill Hanney, the theater’s owner and producer. “ ‘A Christmas Carol’ is an essential part of what we do, and every year we have so much fun with it. Our adaptation truly illustrates how magical musical theater can be.’’

Throughout the show’s run, unopened, unwrapped toys for boys and girls ages 2 to 12 are being collected for Toys for Tots.

Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 22, 23; and matinees are at 2 p.m. Dec. 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 23.

Tickets are $45 to $60. Call 978-232-7200, visit www.nsmt.org, or the box office at 62 Dunham Road.

A DIFFERENT ‘NUTCRACKER’: Stoneham Theatre presents “The Nutcracker,’’ written by The House Theatre of Chicago, now through Dec. 22.

This version is stripped of the usual Tchaikovsky tinsel and is, rather, a dark tale of a family in shock, with parents immobilized by the grief of losing their soldier son, Fritz. Still, it includes spectacle, movement, and music. The show is aimed at adults and older teens, but can be enjoyed by children of all ages.

The production is directed by Caitlin Lowans, Stoneham Theatre’s artistic associate and director of education. Choreographer is Ceit Zweil, a producer of children’s websites at WGBH in Boston.

Following today’s 2 p.m. matinee, the audience is invited to a discussion of the play with the cast.

Performance times vary. Tickets are $44 to $48, $20 for students. Call 781-279-2200 or visit www.stonehamtheatre.org.

AUTHOR’S CORNER: Robert Wilhelm of Essex is the author of “Murder & Mayhem in Essex County,’’ published by The History Press. Wilhelm’s interest in historic murders began with research of traditional American ballads about such crimes. He writes about historical true crime for the blogs Murder by Gaslight and National Night Stick. Wilhelm, who is a musician, and his wife, Anne White, founded and for 15 years hosted the Essex Music Festival, an annual festival of folk and acoustic music on the banks of Chebacco Lake.

IN LOCAL GALLERIES: “Winter Lights IV,’’ an annual holiday exhibit and sale, is at The Loading Dock Gallery at Western Avenue Studios in Lowell Wednesday through Jan. 1. A holiday celebration and reception with the artists will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Saturday. The event, which showcases the work of Western Avenue artists and artisans, includes jewelry, cards, paintings, fabric art, sculptures, photographs, pottery, glass ornaments and bowls, and seasonal decorative items. . . . “All Original’’ is the theme of a holiday open house at Indigo Artist Studio in Newburyport from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through next Sunday. An artist reception will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. The studio’s artists, Mary Arthur Pollak and Lillian M. Coolidge, and guest artist Melynn Allen exhibit original monotypes, oils, mixed media, and functional pottery in all sizes, prices, framed, and unframed work.

Items can be sent to wdkilleen@gmail.com.

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