‘A Christmas Carol’ done differently at Central Lakes College

Joey Yow, director of the Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center, will direct the Brainerd Community Theatre's unusual production of "A Christmas Carol." Playwrite Patrick Barlow has retold Charles Dickens’ holiday classic in a new adaptation that uses only five actors.

A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal.
A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Central Lakes College.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — You’ve probably never seen “A Christmas Carol” quite like this one.

Most of the five cast members of Brainerd Community Theatre’s production of the holiday classic will tackle several roles when they take the stage at Central Lakes College’s Dryden Theatre. Performances are at 7 p.m. Dec. 13-15 at the college’s Brainerd campus.

“Normally, this is a show that needs between 20 to 30 people to put on,” said Joey Yow, director of the Central Lakes College Performing Arts Center. “You have the principles, which are numerous, and then you also have usually a fairly large ensemble.”

Patrick Barlow, writer of the Broadway and West End hit “The 39 Steps,” has retold Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol" by adapting it so only five actors are used to bring some of Dickens' most beloved characters to life in a two-hour literary adaption of the novel.

A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal.
A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Central Lakes College.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“A lot of productions of ‘A Christmas Carol’ are musical productions that incorporate a large chorus, so this one appealed to me because it was one that took such a fun and inventive style,” said Yow, who is directing the production.


From Scrooge and Tiny Tim to Bob Cratchit and Mrs. Fezziwig, Barlow’s versions of “A Christmas Carol” uses nothing more than some simple props, fresh physicality and the power of imagination to convey this timeless story of redemption, according to a news release.

Yow said he was involved with a production of it with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival and that it was a play that meant a lot to him growing up as both a child when he saw it and as a young theater professional.

“There’s something really fascinating about watching actors of this caliber change roles so fast and all of the things that we do to enhance that feeling for the audience,” Yow said. “It really makes it dreamlike in a lot of ways.”

A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal.
Actors Marc Oliphant, Sharon Hartley, Brian Rhett, Bri Keran and Kryston Wisely perform A Christmas Carol during dress rehearsal Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Central Lakes College.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Yow said some of the characters are even portrayed by puppets, with masks and action figures, so the audience will witness Scrooge's transformation from a stingy miser to a man who generously celebrates the spirit of the season all year long in this highly theatrical adaptation.

“There's at least one scene where I play three or four different characters within 30 or 40 seconds, and there's a lot of running around,” said Brian Rhett, a member of the cast.” I mean, honestly, it's exhausting both physically and mentally to keep it all straight.”

Rhett plays Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, Scrooge’s nephew, Tiny Tim and various other roles in “A Christmas Carol” and was previously seen with Brainerd Community Theatre in “Wait Until Dark.”

“I've been doing theater for 40-plus years and it's fun,” Sharon Hartley said of Barlow’s adaptation of “A Christmas Carol,” which is set in 19th century London, England.

Hartley was previously seen with the community theater in “Sister Act.” She plays Ghost of Christmas Past, Mrs. Cratchit and even furniture pieces in Dickens’ story.


“It's fun to be different things, different people and go from one character to another character to another character,” said Hartley, who is also the production’s costume designer.

A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal.
A Christmas Carol dress rehearsal Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022, at Central Lakes College.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Kryston Wiseley plays Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge’s sister and Scrooge’s love interest and was also a performer in “Sister Act.”

“I really love the way that ‘A Christmas Carol’ captures kind of the Christmas spirit in a story and also captures kind of the faults of mankind in a story and how those can come together and how you know, it brings out the best of us this time of year and things like that,” Wiseley said.

Marc Oliphant was also in Brainerd Community Theatre’s production of “Sister Act” along with Bri Keran, a member of the BCT Advisory Board, who plays Bob Cratchit, Jacob Marley and various other roles in “A Christmas Carol.”

“You don’t like him at first … the evil jerk that he is,” said Oliphant, who only plays Scrooge but also has the most lines in the community theater’s production. “You show the depths that he has fallen to and the way he gets out of it. … It’s a wonderful story of Scrooge’s redemption.”

Barlow's “A Christmas Carol” premiered at the Delaware Theatre Co. in December 2012, under the direction of Joe Calarco.

“I haven't seen many adaptations that have touched on Scrooge’s childhood in a way that kind of looks at how past trauma can continue to have a ripple effect well through the rest of someone's life,” Yow said.

Milford Mine Memorial Park honors the 48 miners working in the Milford Mine on Feb. 5, 1924 — most of whom died when the mine collapsed. The park is about 4 miles north of Crosby along Highway 6.

Rounding out the community theater’s production are Lorri Jager, stage manager; Sarah Aamot, vocal director; Tim Leagjeld, set and props designer; and Heidi Eckwall, lighting designer.


“This is the first time that I've ever experienced ‘A Christmas Carol’ and actually felt sorry for Scrooge. … There's been a lot of trauma and a lot of things that have happened to him, and I mean I feel bad for him. I probably would have ended up the same way,” Rhett said.

Tickets are $10 for college students and those under 18 years old, $12 for seniors and $15 for adults, and are available by calling the box office 218-855-8199 or online at .

A pre-show dessert reception that begins at 6 p.m. in the theater lobby is included with all tickets. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., show starts at 7 p.m. Dec. 13-15.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover arts and entertainment, and write feature stories, for the Brainerd Dispatch newspaper. As a professional journalist with years of experience, I have won awards for my fact-based reporting. And my articles have also appeared in other publications, including USA Today. 📰
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