New Takes On Holiday Chestnuts at TheaterWorks, Hartford Stage

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Sometimes it’s good to spice up a Christmas tradition and several holiday perennials are being refreshed in Hartford this season: A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas at Hartford Stage and Christmas on the Rocks at TheaterWorks.

Michael Preston succeeds Bill Raymond who has played Ebenezer Scrooge in Michael Wilson’s lively adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic for 17 of the theater’s past 19 seasons. The show runs to Saturday, Dec. 30.

“Michael has an amazing ability to connect both emotionally and physically as an actor,” says director Rachel Alderman. “Here he brings wonderful things to life from his background with the [new vaudeville ensemble] The Flying Karamazov Brothers.” Preston was a member of that new vaudeville troupe of comedy, juggling, and cirque skills from 1991 to 2000.

Preston, who is also an associate professor of dance and theater at Trinity College, is familiar with Hartford Stage’s production, playing the character of Mr. Marvel for the past five years.

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“One of the things I loved about Bill,” says Preston, “is that you so wanted Scrooge to make it through to his redemption at the end and his experience his glorious realization that things can change.”

Over at TheaterWorks, producing artistic director Rob Ruggiero was looking to add a new title to Christmas on the Rocks, the anthology of seven short works that take youngsters featured in holiday classics and comedically envision what their lives turned out to be as adults, such as sour and not-so-Tiny Tim, a grown-up Ralph from A Christmas Story, and a mid-life crisis Charlie Brown.

Last year Ruggiero added a new episode to the mix based on Frosty the Snowman. That piece replaced Matthew Lombardo’s farcical spin on Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, centering on a now-ribald Cindy Lou Who.

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