Friday, June 21, 2024

'A Christmas Carol unlike any other;' Immersive theater returns to Granbury for month-long production

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The wait is over for the much-anticipated immersive holiday production, “The Christmas Carol Experience.”

Debuting this week and with shows scheduled throughout December, “The Christmas Carol Experience” will provide audiences with a new take on the classic Charles Dickens’ tale.

"The main difference is we're actually starting at the funeral of Jacob Marley, so we're literally in a graveyard for the beginning, and as opposed to Scrooge being the character we start with, we start with the funeral of Marley,” said the director and producer of the show, Brian Clowdus.

The audience will follow Ebenezer Scrooge on the path of redemption as he travels to his past, present and future.

“Expect a completely different Christmas Carol than what you're used to,” said Julie Trammel, who plays Mrs. Cratchet. “So, if you think you're used to the traditional Christmas Carol that you've seen 100 times, this is something that you've never seen before. We've kind of created a spin-off version of ‘A Christmas Carol’ and a taste of that interactive Clowdus magic. You're there and you're in the past, you're in the present, you're in the future. Scrooge and Marley will literally talk to you. Mrs. Fezziwig might do a dance with you. Expect the unexpected.”

Scenes will take place both inside and in the courtyard of the Dora Lee Langdon mansion, transporting guests to Fezziwig’s living room and Scrooge’s office.

Actors will play live music on a guitar and accordion during the experience, and will sing popular holiday favorites like, “Silent Night” and “Deck the Halls,” — the latter of which the audience will be encouraged to participate in by either singing or dancing.

“The message at the end will just move you to tears,” Trammel said. “And it's cool because we get to tell the stories to people. I really like talking to people and getting to know people's names and there's something so cool about that, just even, you know, singing ‘Oh, Holy Night’ and being able to look in somebody's eyes and just have that moment; it's beautiful.”

“Also, we bring in the Christian aspects,” said Paloma Power, who plays Belle. “Most of our songs talk about Jesus, the reason for the season, so it's not the Hallmark kind of Christmas; it's very grounded.”

“The Christmas Carol Experience” is made up of a five-person cast and is held in an intimate capacity, with shows topping out at 50 attendees each.

“We have two people for our crew, and then we have five cast members, and that's it. There is no one else, and it makes you value what many people have dozens of people doing, only seven people are doing. There's a certain amount of family trust that you have to have with individuals when you're doing a project that intimate, so being able to work with family is just a really unique experience,” said Vincent Sadler, who plays Marley. “We've all worked together before this, at least once, so we get to have our BCE (Brian Clowdus Experience) Christmas together, and that's pretty unique.”

“I like that it's only a five-person cast because you really get to know the characters more than a regular ‘Christmas Carol’ where you have like 50 people on stage. It's more personalized, and the message comes across deeper,” Power said.

Alexa Munsinger, who plays Mrs. Fezziwig, said she’s most excited for audiences to see “the magic in the show” and how the cast “brings it to life.”

“Not only are the characters learning life lessons, but the audience can take something from it as well. It's like a big life lesson, told in the magic of a story,” she said.

Similarly to Munsinger, Clowdus’s goal for “The Christmas Carol Experience” is for audience members to “embrace the power of forgiveness” and “the power that true friendship holds."

“It's never too late to say you're sorry, and it's never too late to change,” he said. “Everyone is capable of change. Everyone. Even the most hardened person is capable of love, and that's my goal is for people to hopefully learn something and leave this experience thinking, ‘Oh, you know, is there something I want to change about myself?’ Because guess what? We all have the power to change. All of that magic lies within us.”

Anthony Watson, who plays Scrooge, said his favorite scene is when his character stops and stares at his tombstone in a moment of reflection.

“He has that realization of like, ‘Wow, I'm dead,’ and like ‘What have I done with my life?’ I feel like it's a short reminder to a lot of people that you don't really know when your time is. That's something that nobody can control and as long as we're given today, use that to give back. The story of this is a reminder to everybody,” he said. “Christmas is all about giving. Here, we're giving people a story to remind them that the people that are around you are the best gifts outside of tangible things that will just come and go.”

Sadler said his favorite scene is the ending, when Marley gets redemption through his friend, Scrooge.

“Scrooge stops him from returning to his casket, and instead, he's surrounded by all the people from his past, including his best friend, and he's laid to rest,” Sadler said. “But instead of going back in his coffin, he gets a really cool, heavenly exit that you'll just have to see in the show. But it's very heartfelt — and as Brian (Crowdus) likes to say, ‘Epic.’”

“The Christmas Carol Experience” will run on select dates from now until Dec. 30. Tickets are limited and can be purchased online at brianclowdus.com. Twelve shows are currently sold out.

“It's not a show; it's an experience,” said Denise Moore, a Granbury resident and assistant for the production. “The actors always come up to you and get you involved, and you might be crying. He (Clowdus) brings magic to a story that we're all familiar with.”

“There are probably hundreds of iterations of ‘A Christmas Carol,’ but what's so unique about this one is as much feeling that you would expect to see in ‘A Christmas Carol,’ that same amount of feeling has been put into the process of putting (this experience) together,” Sadler added. “It’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ unlike any other.”