In the spirit of Christmas

COURTESY PHOTOS Ranae Puterbaugh dressed as Ebenezer Scrooge stands next to director Mike Lyon wearing a sheet during a playful break from rehearsing “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of ‘A Christmas Carol.” The musical comedy will be presented at 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Fine Arts Center.

Get into the spirit of Christmas with a musical comedy fundraiser for Holy Trinity Catholic School planned Saturday, Nov. 18, with two performances planned at 2 and 7 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center.

Wine and appetizers will be served at each performance. Tickets are $15 each and can be purchased at Holy Trinity Church or at the door.

“The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s production of A Christmas Carol” written by David McGillivary and Walter Zelin Jr., promises to give audiences a new twist on an old, familiar tale.

“The official name is quite the long title,” said director Mike Lyon, who is joined by musical director Julie Hohm to oversee the songs and dances on stage. “The Farndale Avenue is a group of four women that run a theater company and their lonely old stagehand, who ends up on stage.

“These women shouldn’t be running a lemonade stand let alone a theater company,” Lyon added. “This is not a traditional ‘Christmas Carol.’ It’s turned upside down and then put into a blender.”

Cast members are Anne Blondheim, Diane Clayton, Melanie Letsche, Denny Mahowald and Ranae Puterbaugh. Also helping with the production is Theresa Bell.

“It’s a play within a play,” Lyon said. “The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate is putting on “A Christmas Carol,” and the women running the theater each play two or more of the characters,” Lyon said. “Melanie Letsche plays an actor by the name of Mercedes, and Mercedes plays certain characters that are originally written by Charles Dickens in the ‘Christmas Carol’.”

All the women in the Farndale Guild have a love/hate relationship with one member named Thelma, a character played by Ranae Puterbaugh, who is the diva of the Guild.

“The actors come on stage as the wrong characters, there’s missed lines, there’s overacting, there’s bad acting, there’s backstage mishaps, the light cues are wrong, the music cues are wrong, the characters bicker on stage,” Lyon said. “While they’re on stage playing their main characters they will get out of character and yell at each other.

“There’s a lot of slapstick going on,” he said. “It’s a very physical play.”

Lyon said he has always wanted to direct a Christmas production, as well as a play within a play, and this one fit the bill. An added bonus is the fact that this comedy production is a musical.

“This is new territory for almost all of us,” Lyon added. “Julie Hohm has been a godsend as musical director, I’ve never done a musical before.”

Although each of the cast members are able to sing and dance, they have to act as if they don’t know how to act and don’t know how to sing.

“I’ve worked with each of these cast members many times before,” Lyon said. “Each one of them is absolutely meant for their character.

“While we are rehearsing our lines and doing our blocking, we’re also rehearsing the mistakes that happen within the play in the play,” he said. “It’s a nontraditional version of the ‘Christmas Carol.’ It’s flat out hilarious from start to finish. The fourth wall is broken down so much. Almost every single character will acknowledge or talk to the audience.

“It’s one of the craziest productions I’ve ever been part of, but it stays in the tradition of Christmas and ‘A Christmas Carol’,” Lyon added.

Rehearsing one of the musical numbers in the play are, from left, Ann Blondheim, Diane Clayton, Denny Mahowald and Melanie Letsche.