The holidays are all about tradition. For me, and thousands of other people in Orange County, tradition means annual pilgrimages to local theaters to see “A Christmas Carol” at South Coast Repertory and ABT’s “The Nutcracker” at Segerstrom Center.
This year, tradition is bittersweet. After originating the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at South Coast Rep four decades ago, Hal Landon Jr. is hanging up his red scarf once the production closes on Dec. 24.
The show’s director, John-David Keller, is also retiring after 40 years at the helm.
“A Christmas Carol” has had an impressive run: Nearly 575,000 people have seen the show during more than 1,400 performances. Many of the theatregoers are new to the show, but others are so familiar with it that they can recite the dialogue. Count me among that group. Having enjoyed “A Christmas Carol” more than 30 times over the years, I feel that the show is like an old friend you look forward to seeing every December. Like many theatergoers, I wear the show’s iconic red scarf when I attend performances of “A Christmas Carol.”
But back to Scrooge — I mean Hal Landon. I have had the pleasure of interviewing him over the years, and l know how much he has enjoyed playing this role.
“Being in ‘A Christmas Carol’ has been a great lesson in the value of living in the present moment, of not being concerned with past moments and not anticipating future moments,” Landon recently wrote on the SCR blog. “This has helped me not only in this long-running show, but also in all of the other parts I play.”
What he enjoys most, said Landon, is “the delight that audiences get from seeing the play and the fact that adults, who saw the play when they were children, are now bringing their children.”
“The message of this play is the same for me as it is for everyone,” added Landon. “There are people in need and we who are able must help them.”
Not surprisingly, the entire run of “A Christmas Carol” is sold out, but you may still have a chance to see it. A standby line starts next to the box office one hour prior to show time. They begin selling standby tickets five minutes before the show. Everyone must be at least 12 years old to attend on a standby ticket because SCR does not guarantee seating will be together in the theater. Anyone wishing to purchase standby tickets may be moved if ticketed patrons arrive to take their seats. Refunds will only be given if seating is not available.
For more information, call the box office at (714) 708-5555 or visit SCR.org.
“The Nutcracker” is another local holiday tradition. Seems like every ballet studio and semi-professional dance troupe tackles “The Nutcracker” every December. At Segerstrom Center for the Arts, American Ballet Theatre presents a dazzling production of “The Nutcracker” Dec. 13-22.
This is the fifth year in a row that ABT has come to Segerstrom Center with its colorful sets, gorgeous costumes and world-class dancers that help bring the magic of “The Nutcracker” to life. And, as always, the Pacific Symphony performs Tchaikovsky’s glorious music live.
In addition to a rotating cast of principal dancers that features Hee Seo, Cory Stearns, Misty Copeland, Sarah Lane, Isabella Boylston, Christine Shevchenko, Thomas Forster, Blaine Hoven, Joo Won Ahn and Aran Bell, a handful of local children have the opportunity to dance in “The Nutcracker.”
More than 40 students from the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom are in the production, including 11 from Newport Beach, one from Newport Coast, and one from Corona del Mar.
The students: Juliet Garbacz, Megan Bartz, Matisse Braun, Alexandra Caamano, Koko Chang, Emily Engel, Ava Joseph, Grier McLarand, Alexandra Orradre, Ophelia Owens, Stella Stulik, Brooke Treska, and Autumn Dym.
This production of “The Nutcracker” is now a beloved holiday tradition that will hopefully continue to return year after year.
For more information, visit SCFTA.org.