Northampton Press

Friday, August 23, 2019
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOs“A Christmas Carol,” through Dec. 15, 19th Street Theatre, Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek CONTRIBUTED PHOTOs“A Christmas Carol,” through Dec. 15, 19th Street Theatre, Civic Theatre of Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek
Christopher Olson, “The SantaLand Diaries,” through Dec. 16, Civic Theatre514, Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek Christopher Olson, “The SantaLand Diaries,” through Dec. 16, Civic Theatre514, Allentown. Copyright - Kenneth Ek

Civic Theatre has holiday spirit for Christmas season: Glassman back in ‘Carol’; new lead elf in ‘SantaLand’

Friday, December 14, 2018 by KATHY LAUER-WILLIAMS Special to The Press in Focus

There is plenty of holiday spirit to go around this season at Civic Theatre of Allentown.

The traditional “A Christmas Carol” based on Charles Dickens’ novel continues through Dec. 15 in Civic’s 19th Street Theatre and the modern more mature David Sedaris play “The SantaLand Diaries” continues through Dec. 16 in Civic’s Theatre 514.

And to top it off, there was an engagement on stage opening weekend of “A Christmas Carol.”

Barry Glassman plays Ebenezer Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” for the ninth time. Glassman has played Scrooge in more productions at Civic than any other actor.

This time is special, Glassman says. He and his wife Sharon Glassman were heavily involved in the $5.5-million campaign to renovate the 90-year-old theater, which reopened in October.

“I wasn’t going to let anyone else do it in the new theater,” Glassman jokes. “I was so involved in he campaign I said, ‘I’d like to do this.’”

Glassman says rehearsing the show wasn’t all that different from a “technical point of view,” but when he walked out opening night for the curtain call when he looked out at the “incredible facility, it was overwhelming.”

He says one of the improvements he is most thankful for is the 19th Street Theatre’s new sound system.

“Before this, there were dead spots in the theater where you couldn’t hear and no matter what you did, you couldn’t fix it.”

Glassman says this year’s production has a “very young cast” and now “all these kids can be heard saying their lines.”

He praises the adult actors, including JoAnn Wilchek Basist as the Ghost of Christmas Past, George Kovarie as Marley and the Ghost of Christmas Future, Brian Rock as the Ghost of Christmas Present, Mark Domyan as Bob Cratchit, and Amanda Wetzel as Mrs. Cratchit.

After this year’s production, Glassman says he’s considering hanging up his stocking cap.

“I’m 71 and it seems like it’s become more physical,” he says. “We do 20 shows in 2 and ½ weeks. It’s exhausting.”

Saturday of the opening weekend was made even more special when, after the curtain call, audience member Joe Monkiewicz came up on stage with Civic’s blessing to propose to his girlfriend Brenda McIntyre, who said, “Yes.”

Across the street at Theatre514, Civic has brought back David Sedaris’ one-man show “The SantaLand Diaries” for the third year in a row.

The play, an alternative holiday show about a slacker who explores how the holiday season brings out the best and worst in people, has proved a popular companion piece at Civic to “A Christmas Carol.”

This year, the show features a new actor playing David and his alter-ego Krumpet the Elf, replacing Jarrod Yuskauskas, who played the role for two years.

“I have very big elf shoes to fill,” says actor Christopher Olson, who plays Krumpet the Elf.

The show is an adaptation of Sedaris’ satirical essay about his experiences as an elf in Macy’s New York City department store one Christmas season when times were hard.

“The SantaLand Diaries” became an instant hit when it was broadcast on NPR in 1992. It was adapted by Joe Mantello as a one-man play and has become a beloved holiday alternative for theaters.

“I fell in love with the script,” says Olson, who was last seen as German developer Fritz in Civic’s “Rock of Ages” in February. “There are funny moments, but it also is touching.”

He says “The SantaLand Diaries” director Will Morris has a “very fresh take” on the show this year.

“It’s more like a stand-up comedy show with me, the audience and a mic stand,” Olson says. “I’m really playing off the audience and there is a lot of audience participation.”

He says there is some improvisation, which he loves, having toured with the improv-heavy immersive comedy “Tony and Tina’s Wedding.”

“There is adult humor, which is a little crude in a way, but it still has that hidden message,” Olson says. “You get into the Christmas spirit in a way you were not expecting.”

The play is advertised as “for mature elves only” for its mature language and themes.

“A Christmas Carol” is 7:30 p.m. Dec.13-14; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 15, Civic Theatre of Allentown’s 19th Street Theatre, 527 N. 19th St, Allentown.

“The SantaLand Diaries,” 8 p.m. Dec. 14-15; 3 p.m. Dec. 16, Civic Theatre514, 514 N. 19th St., Allentown.

Tickets: Civic Theater box office, 527 N. 19th St., Allentown; civictheatre.com; 610-432-8943