‘A Christmas Carol’ at Christian Life Center by Yvonne French

The Christian Life Center was filled with The Christmas Spirit as a group of actors from all walks of life performed A Christmas Carol to benefit homeless shelters in Prince George’s County.

This quick, cozy little show is great for all ages and makes a great night out near the center of hip and happening Hyattsville.

Ray Converse gave a multi-layered and authentic performance as Ebenezer Scrooge. I believed him when he said, “I spent so much time making money that I failed to see the beauty right in front of me.” Converse goes from agitated pacing in the first scenes to a totally broken-down man at the end. It’s a very heartfelt performance.

As Tiny Tim, Sophia Riazi-Sekowski was adorable and fantastic. Several holiday carols are woven into the plot, and her pure, sweet voice in the “Little Drummer Boy” made me remember my own past Christmases.

The play written by Bill Leary is a modern take on the original Victorian-era story. The Cratchits are in a homeless shelter and the Scrooge family has set up a non-profit.

Scrooge’s business partner, chain-carrying Jacob Marley, is played by Timothy Jansen, who has a great, gravely voice as he urges Scrooge to repent his miserly ways after he forsakes the partnership for his own gain.

Scrooge’s former fiancee, Belle, is played by Lauren Giglio, whose solo “O Holy Night” displayed a powerful and gorgeous soprano.

Rhonda Gueory played The Ghost of Christmas Past (here she’s Scrooge’s mother), If she’s anything like her character in real life, her kids are lucky because this ghost doesn’t nag – she just expects you to do right. Actually, her son, Roderick Gueory, is in the play as Edward, Scrooge’s nephew, so it must have worked.

Edward’s wife, Holly, is played by Deidre McCalaster, who convincingly speaks her mind about Scrooge’s greedy ways, but forgives him just as easily.

Emilee Schmidt doubles as young Sarah and Mary and delivers some great dialog and character acting with undeniable authenticity.

David Insogna rounds out the cast doubling as Bob Cratchit and a preacher, while Leary dons a hat that’s a cross between a bishop’s mitre and a Christmas tree as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Costumes for all the ghosts were electric, and the actors and singers wore ornately decorated red felt vests while singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The lights were low for the three ghostly scenes, which created a sense of intimacy that brought us right along on Scrooge’s journey of redemption. Between the acting, the songs, and the story, this enthusiastic group of actors reveals the meaning of life and Christmas for us, one and all.

Proceeds from  the performances of A Christmas Carol will benefit the Warm Nights Hypothermia Shelter Program.

The program’s directors at Community Crisis Services, Inc., hope to be able to give about 250 people, including 50 children, shelter in a series of churches on cold nights through mid-April. Current capacity is 25 people, and on the 33-degree night of the play, 34 had sought shelter. Most are young families, some with several children, and many live in cars. Proceeds will also benefit  the Christian Life Center’s Food Distribution Program, which delivers more than 40,000 pounds of fresh produce and dry goods each month.

Running Time: Approximately one hour, with no intermission.

A Christmas Carol plays December 19 – 22, 2013 at 8 p.m. at the Christian Life Center – 5600 Taylor Road, in Riverdale, MD. For tickets call (240) 565-4414, or email [email protected]

Community Crisis Services Inc. & The Christian Life Center’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ Opens Thursday 12/19 by Bill Leary.



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