From the Press
 

Theater company celebrates 300th performance of ‘Scrooge’

Local talent shines in annual holiday show’s long history


By Caren Caterina

SPRING LAKE — Tomorrow night, the Spring Lake Community House Theatre will celebrate a milestone in what will be nearly 30 years of the theater’s beloved production, “Scrooge.”

What makes tomorrow evening’s kick-off of the annual production so special is not only the fact it will be the 300th performance of “Scrooge,” but that three local talents — Spring Lake resident and costume designer Theresa Condoluci and actors Frank Ryan, of Spring Lake, and Alan Foster, of Belmar — will be able to say they have been involved in “Scrooge” since its inception in Spring Lake.

Pat Barry, artistic director and producer at the Spring Lake Community House Theatre, said the “people who have been involved for all of this time are very special to me and the Community House.”

According to Ms. Barry, Mr. Ryan has been involved with the theater company since 1981, when he was first part of the cast of “South Pacific.”

He joined the cast of “Scrooge” in 1983 in the role of Christmas Future “and has never missed a single performance,” said Ms. Barry.

He has also served as the company’s historian and keeps records of every play the company has done in the past 30-plus years, she said.

“Whenever I have a question about something many years ago, I just call Frank,” she said.

Mr. Ryan said it is “wonderful” being a part of “Scrooge” for so many years.

“Everyone talks to me about it — and I have something to say,” laughed Mr. Ryan.

“I knew nothing about ‘Scrooge’ when I was a kid,” said Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan said he got the part of Christmas Future in 1983, but was a bit dismayed his part had no lines.

In accordance with Charles Dickens’ famous 19th-century novella, “A Christmas Carol,” on which the stage production “Scrooge” is based, Christmas Future is a ghostly figure who visits the lead character, the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, to show him that his wicked ways will lead to a lonely future.

“I bow and point … I don’t talk,” Mr. Ryan said.

“But, the reviewer has to review the three ghosts — so you get your name in the paper,” joked Mr. Ryan.

According to Mr. Ryan, “Scrooge” first began at the Spring Lake Community House Theatre in 1983 with five performances.

“In 1991, we got up to 10 shows,” said Mr. Ryan.

Some years following had 13 shows, he said, adding, “One year, we did 15 shows.”

For the most part now, the theater puts on about 11 performances of “Scrooge” each season, said Mr. Ryan.

Mr. Ryan said the best part of coming back to “Scrooge” each year is “being back with your friends.

“They are all happy,” he said.

Mr. Ryan also pointed out this year will feature a new person playing the title character.

“Gary Powell will be the fourth Scrooge,” said Mr. Ryan.

“After this year, we will have five people who have performed 250 shows of ‘Scrooge’ and three more at 200,” added Mr. Ryan.

Mrs. Condoluci has been with the company since 1982.

“She is responsible for most of the beautiful costumes we are famous for,” said Ms. Barry.

“Theresa is an amazing talent. I have an idea in mind, show her a picture, buy some fabric, and Theresa works her magic,” continued Ms. Barry. “She doesn’t even need a pattern!”

“We have invited many of our ‘graduates’ — girls who Theresa dressed as [the character Belle] to come to opening night to honor her” tomorrow, said Ms. Barry.

“I have been there for ‘Scrooge’ for 28 years,” said Mrs. Condoluci, noting she makes all the costumes for the popular holiday production by hand.

“They are fun to make,” she said.

“We have a lot of the costumes [already] and do alterations to fit the new people,” she said. “And we make something new every year, such as the ladies’ dresses.”

Mrs. Condoluci said she learned her costume-making skills growing up in Italy as well as in the United States.

Mrs. Condoluci laughed and said she will continue her involvement with the annual production “until they kick me out.”

“The performance is nice,” said Mrs. Condoluci.

“They do a great job.”

Mr. Foster has played Mr. Fezziwig, a former employer whose annual Christmas ball Scrooge revisits in a dream, for most of the 300 performances, said Ms. Barry.

“We joke that he really is Mr Fezziwig,” she said.

Mr. Foster also has directed “Scrooge” several times.

“He has been a part of ‘Scrooge’ in one way or other for all of this time,” said Ms. Barry. “Always ready, willing and eager to help in any way that he can” — except when the Giants are playing, she teased.

Mr. Foster started at the theater in 1978. His first performance of “Scrooge” was in 1983.

Mr. Foster said he was the first one to play Mr. Fezziwig.

“I haven’t played him every year,” he said. “I directed the show for nine years, from 1984 to 1993.”

Mr. Foster said he is thrilled with the fact “Scrooge” has “lasted so long and has given a lot of pleasure to a lot of people.”

“It is fun — I get to sing and dance,” said Mr. Foster.

Mr. Foster said he would enjoy continuing his involvement with “Scrooge.”

“I don’t know if there will be 300 more,” joked Mr. Foster.

“It has been very rewarding to see people who have started as children, and now their children are in the show,” he said. “My own son was in the show for some time [when he was in grade school] ... It is a tradition,” said Mr. Foster.

Ms. Barry said she has enjoyed the development and growth of “Scrooge” through the years.

“It is amazing to me when I remember Christmas 30 years ago,” said Ms. Barry.

“I was sitting in the lobby with some friends,” she recalled. “We had a little tree in the corner, no lights outside, no play in the theater. I said, ‘Wouldn’t this be a wonderful place for Christmas? Let’s do something next year.’

“The rest is history,” she concluded.

The Spring Lake Community House Theatre will offer performances of “Scrooge” at 8 p.m. on Dec. 2, 9 and 16. Performances will be held at both 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Dec. 3, 10 and 17. Performances will be held at 2 p.m. only on Dec. 4 and 11.

For more information, please call the theater’s box office at 732-449-4530 or visit www.springlaketheatre.com.