“It was probably 10 years in or so that the thought crossed my mind: ‘Am I going to get bored of this at some point?’ And you know what? I don’t,” says John Armstrong, creator and producer of The Christmas Carol Project, which has dates scheduled in Edmonton and Red Deer this season.
The production, now in its 18th year, presents a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic with musical performances by local talent such as Bill Bourne, Al Brant, Kevin Cook, Maria Dunn, Bill Hobson, Dale Ladouceur, Terry Morrison and Tom Roschkov, with Dave Clarke handling narration to tie it all together. Eighteen years equals 90 shows and counting—Armstrong would like to reach 100 to coincide with The Christmas Carol Project’s 20th anniversary in 2015.
Very little rehearsal is needed at this point, and Armstrong notes the artists are each strong in their own right and keep one another on their toes on stage.
“They come from sort of a roots background, so there’s an element of jamming and improvisation in every performance,” he says, adding this can be a challenge for new sound techs, but he’s there to guide them through. “We’ve got three hot-shot guitar players in the band and they tend to throw it back and forth and you never know unless you’re really keeping an eye on them what’s going to happen, so it’s a live, vital kind of performance.”
Armstrong can’t begin to choose a favourite song after all these years, but the tradition and infectious spirit of the production keeps him coming back. When asked if his perspective on the source material has changed over time, he explains it wasn’t until the Occupy movement that he realized Bob Cratchit is an original icon of sorts for the 99 percent.
“The sentiments of the story have always resonated strongly with me and with the whole cast. We’re conscious of social movements and realized the story is very strong in its message about sharing, and I think that’s one of the real reasons it’s had such longevity and we all support it and come back to it every year,” Armstrong says. “I think over the years that has become more important to me, in my mind, as to the message of what the story is. But it’s really nice seeing all the people coming back and coming out of the theatre with big smiles on their faces, because they enjoy the show so much and it’s nice to be able to make a few hundred people happy for a couple of hours every year in the middle of winter.”
Fri, Dec 20 and Sat, Dec 21 (8 pm)
Westbury Theatre $36.75 (advance), $42 (door)