'A Lyrical Christmas Carol' must go on, Ken Gargaro says
By Alice T. Carter
Published: Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, 8:54 p.m.
Christmas without “A Lyrical Christmas Carol” is unthinkable, Ken Gargaro says.
“There is a demand not only from audiences, but from people who participate,” says Gargaro, founding director of Pittsburgh Musical Theater and dean of the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory.
In 1991, Gargaro and his wife, Jane, created their own stage adaptation of Charles Dickens' Christmas classic for a Pittsburgh Musical Theater production at the Stephen Foster Memorial.
“The (Pittsburgh) Playhouse had done it many times, but they had stopped doing it,” Gargaro recalls. “I thought it was a niche that needed to be served.”
Since then, the company has performed it every year except one in a succession of locations that has included Antonia Hall at Carlow College in Shadyside, the Colonial Theatre at Robert Morris University in Moon, the Byham Theater, Downtown, and two stays at the New Hazlett Theater on the North Side, where it has been done annually since 2007 and will show again starting Dec. 20.
The only year without “A Lyrical Christmas Carol” was 2002. The company was having financial difficulties and opted instead to mount “Ken Gargaro's Christmas Spectacular” in the auditorium of the James Centre in the West End that is also home to the Richard E. Rauh Conservatory.
“That was a lot of fun. It was modeled after the Radio City Music Hall Christmas shows — minus the live Nativity scene,” Gargaro says.
During the years, the show has grown and evolved.
“It started as (a cast of) 15 people, mostly professional actors, plus a small number of children,” Gargaro says.
When Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera debuted its “A Musical Christmas Carol” in 1992, Gargaro reinvented his production to make it more family-friendly and more supportive of Pittsburgh Musical Theater's educational mission.
“We added more music to involve more students. As time has gone on, there are fewer professionals, although we still have a guest artist in the lead role,” he says, noting that Anthony Marino will be making his fifth appearance as Scrooge with the company this year.
Over time, Gargaro has added more performers and characters so that almost 100 actors are involved in the show's two alternating casts.
Many of them are current or former Conservatory students who look forward to the annual production and would likely riot if Gargaro stopped doing it.
“The students said, ‘It can't be Christmas without (‘A Lyrical) Christmas Carol,' ” he says. “Kids like order. They like ritual. They like moving up in roles from Belle's children to Fred's Wife or Mrs. Fezziwig.”
Besides, Gargaro has no intention of stopping. The show generally plays to full houses.
More importantly, he still loves the show and enjoys adding his voice to the backstage chorus that augments the performers onstage.
“I know every single line from the show,” he says.
So do most of the performers who have participated year after year, he says. “It's such a joy putting together the show when everyone knows everything.”
Gargaro's script is somewhat darker than other versions, but it's also gotten funnier.
“It's still kid-friendly,” he says.”It's scary and funny. There's no redemption without fear.”
Gargaro believes the central theme of Scrooge's ability to change and be led to redemption keeps the show enduringly popular:
“It has longevity just because it's not religiously centered,” he says. “It's palatable to all religions because it's about redemption. … In every religious tradition, there is the idea of being able to change. It's a lesson in hope that transcends religion.”
Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- West Mifflin business joins forces with East Allegheny students
- Local Episcopal priest sentenced in child pornography case
- Prescription Drug Take Back Day to be observed locally
- Switch in pairings helps Penguins defensemen find groove in Game 3
- Penguins insider: Malkin found confidence in Game 3
- SCI-Pittsburgh inmate taken to AGH after ‘severe beating’
- Elizabeth council seeks $500,000 state gaming grant to aid flood recovery
- Roundup: Renovations planned for South Hills Village; Average airfares rising slowly, government reports; more
- Husband to stand trial in Derry middle school teacher’s murder
- Shots fired, Monessen house hit on S. 14th St.
- White Oak residents can sign up through borough police for county’s new registry