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Arts Express gives local talent an opportunity to tell the story of Christmas past, present, future in ‘A Christmas Carol’

Mujtaba Alsadeq
Michael Candela and Kimberly Chaffin as Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past during Arts Express’ “A Christmas Carol” dress rehearsal on Monday, Dec. 5.

Ebenezer Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future are coming to Tucson this holiday season in Arts Express’s presentation of “A Christmas Carol.” Beginning Thursday, Dec. 8, Arts Express will perform the musical adaption of Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas story about a man’s journey to rediscover the holiday spirit.

Arts Express’s mission is to teach and empower Southern Arizonan artists and foster the artistic community through events and shows like this one. The show features music composed by Alan Menken, the well-known composer of various Walt Disney classic films including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Little Mermaid” and “Tangled.”

“We’re trying to professionally present one of the most beautifully written versions of Dickens’ story of Scrooge,” said Cathy Simon, director of the production. “This musical by Alan Menken has simply glorious melodic themes.”

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Simon has directed past shows and events at Arts Express since she became a part of the group five years ago. She has been working on this season’s production since the audition process began in early October and is excited to exhibit the show to the community.

Simon said the rehearsal process was not the easiest due to scheduling conflicts and time restrictions, but the cast and crew made the most of their rehearsals.

“One of my favorite parts of the rehearsal process is being reminded that it really is all about the process of getting there,” Simon said. “The end product is only ever the honest result of the process.”

Michael Candela, the actor playing Christmas curmudgeon Ebenezer Scrooge, said he is excited to be a part of the production despite never intending to take on the lead role. Candela jumped at the role after discussing the character and motivations of Scrooge with Simon and the original actor cast for the role was unable to continue the show.

“Cathy and I both agreed Ebenezer was at a point in his life where he decided to close himself off from all the pain in the world,” Candela said. “He makes his peace with the universe … and vows to be a better person.”

Candela has been involved in theater for his entire life as an actor and director and has been a part of hundreds of productions. He is also on the Arts Express board and directed its production of “Shrek: The Musical” last year.

Despite being involved in so many productions, Candela praised the “Christmas Carol” cast and crew highly and said some of them are deserving of positions on Broadway.

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Candela, like Simon, loves the process of putting a show together and said he enjoys discovering who the characters are and watching big musical numbers come together over the weeks of rehearsal. With “A Christmas Carol” in particular, he has explored Scrooge’s story and tried to look at him through a wider lens than those who simply see him as a villain.

“We all have a little Scrooge in our hearts and we all, at times, have lost the true meaning of Christmas,” Candela said. “The past is just that, the past, and each new day brings us the opportunity to make a new fate for ourselves.”

“A Christmas Carol” will open on Thursday at the Berger Performing Arts Center, located at 1200 E. Speedway Blvd., and close Sunday. Tickets for the five performances are $25 for general audience, or $20 for students, and can be purchased in person at Gospel Supplies on Broadway or on the Arts Express website

Follow Victoria Pereira on Twitter.

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