"A Christmas Carol" Like No Other
Beloved local production of classic celebrates a spectacular season.
The holidays are steeped in tradition.
In Salem, a unique and engaging production of A Christmas Carol has become a beloved tradition to dozens of local families for more than two decades. Indeed, as of this writing, there is only a single seat left to purchase this season.
Salem Trolley & Griffen Theatre Presents… A Christmas Carol is the brainchild of local producer and actor Erik Rodenheiser, owner of Salem's Griffen Theatre. In the mid 1980s, he and former Salem Trolley owner Anne Turcott were trying to think of something that would tie the holidays and the Trolley experience together. Santa was an obvious choice, but the idea of Scrooge immediately inspired them.
It began with the character of Scrooge simply aboard the Trolley engaging passengers. Over time, the production grew to include other characters like Bob Cratchit, as well as the distinctive feature of making Trolley stops for different scenes. Says Erik: "Once I really read the story, I developed the show, and have continued to develop it each year."
Each Trolley stop brings the popular tale to life with the help of special effects, costumes, period locations, and a group of dedicated local actors, some of whom have been with the show since inception. Ursina Amsler, who in the early 1990s starred as Belle, is in real life now Mrs. Rodenhiser; she and Erik married in 1999 and have two young boys.
Fellow actor and stand-up comedian Mark Scalia now alternates the role of Scrooge with Erik, giving Erik an opportunity to play other characters and to expand the production. Says Mark: "I love doing the show. The audience brings such great energy… they think they know the story, and they are always surprised what they learn about Scrooge and about themselves. Each show is unique and different."
A signature of the production is the level of interaction between the cast and the audience. Many patrons have come to understand how they themselves are part of the show, and for example will deliberately wear Christmas hats and other lavish items as part of their relations with Scrooge.
And patrons of the show are devoted. "We've had people that have attended performances since its inception. I have literally watched kids grow up to be adults," says Erik "many make it a family tradition." Some local residents rent the entire trolley for a particular show, and like local resident Jane Dwyer, have made it a highlight of their holiday gatherings.
Says Erik: "Audience members today will find a well-oiled machine. The show is fresh every time and every year."
For those who would like to consider attending this popular show in the future, tickets go on sale in September through the Salem Trolley box office.