Every family has its holiday traditions, but none perhaps as collective and public as those who come together each year memorizing lines and learning songs to share "A Christmas Carol" with the community.
Nine families—40 children and 15 adults—will take center stage at the nexStage Theatre in Ketchum for the sixth run of the classic, which opens Saturday, Dec. 17, and runs through Christmas Eve, Dec. 24.
For the Pruitt family, who lost their family's patriarch, Steve, a few months ago from cancer, being on stage is being with extended family. The kids have grown up attending Camp Little Laugh in the summers, and all the Pruitts have been in nexStage productions.
Laughing Stock theater company prides itself on collecting ensemble casts of amateurs and professionals to put forth some of the most loved productions around. It started with family after all, with Kathy and Patsy Wygle and Patsy's husband, Keith Moore.
"This year in particular, we needed a little bit of normalcy," said Collett Pruitt, whose daughters Gariety, 27, and Kaley, 23, have creative careers in New York City and have roles in the show. "Laughing Stock is our extended family anyway and this is a family show. It's short, it's delightful and it's uplifting."
"A Christmas Carol—The Musical" was adapted from the Charles Dickens' original.
The story begins with the introduction of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve, as he is complaining about having to give his clerk, Bob Cratchit, the next day's holiday off. Maintaining that Christmas is merely "humbug," Scrooge refuses to contribute to the local charity's fund for the poor. He even refuses the invitation of his nephew, Fred, to join his family for a holiday celebration.
It is only later that night when he is visited by a succession of spirits—the ghost of his deceased partner, Jacob Marley, and the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come—that Scrooge considers the consequences of his past and present actions and reconsiders his outlook on life.
Grateful for a "second chance," Scrooge vows to help his fellow man—including Bob Cratchit and his frail little son, Tiny Tim—and is reunited with his family. Though it may have only been a dream, Ebenezer Scrooge is a changed man.
This musical is humorous and touching with witty dialogue and fresh new songs without compromising Dickens' original message that the holiday season should be a "kind, forgiving, charitable time," said Director Patsy Wygle.
Each presentation affords the opportunity for a fresh take on the tale as well, said co-director Keith Moore, who plays Bob Cratchit.
"Although we have done the show for six years, each production has its own distinctive spirit and energy," Moore said. "The actors bring their own unique perspective to their characters, so it's ever evolving. It keeps the work fresh."
Wygle said the production grows more popular each year, "especially with the young and aspiring thespians around the valley."
"This year we had calls about auditions in September and ticket requests started before Thanksgiving. It's taken on a life of its own."
Moore, whose son with Patsy, Jamie, is in the show as well, said the annual union strengthens long-held ties.
"It brings a special joy to see families working together to share this classic with the community and celebrate the holiday season," he said.
Gariety Pruitt said it's because once you've been involved in a Laughing Stock show you immediately are considered family.
"We were raised in rehearsals and the support network we have there is tremendous," she said. "They love us and we love them and there is no better place to be in hard times than with them."
In his obituary, published in the Idaho Mountain Express on Oct. 12, Steve's love of the stage was spotlighted.
"Over the years, all four Pruitts performed side by side. He was a familiar face in many Laughing Stock productions, beginning with his first chorus role in 1979 in 'Mame,'" the obituary said. "His favorite roles included Nicely Nicely in "Guys & Dolls," Will in "Oklahoma," Sancho in "Man of La Mancha" and, fittingly, a townsperson in "A Christmas Carol."
Gariety said that while it will be a challenge this year without her father, being a part of the production is "a way to honor the commitment and love he had for Laughing Stock. He would love to see us up there."
See "A Christmas Carol, The Musical"
When: Saturday, Dec. 17, at 7 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m.; Wednesday through Friday, Dec. 21-23 at 7 p.m. with a final matinee at 2 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24.
Where: The nexStage Theatre, 120 S. Main St., Ketchum.
Tickets: $25 general admission, $15 children, $35 reserved seats, available at 726-4857.