By: Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, adapted from Charles Dickens novel
Produced by: Hillbarn Theatre
Directed by: Dan Demers
Featuring: Chris Reber, Randy O’Hara, Jim Ambler, Christina Bolognini, Ben Ball, Jen Martinelli, Sammi Hildebrant, Christine Baker, Jorge Diaz, Cheril Ellingson, Michael Grasso, Hallie Gremlitz, Alan Hafter, Noah Itzkovitz, Gabbie Jison, Daniel Kalafat, Jaron Liclican, Andrew Marheineke, Brian Lindawson, Zev Rodnitzky, Brenna Sammon, Reid Satterwhite, Zaina Sharaiha, and Kaitlin Zablotsky
When: November 29–December 16, 2018
Where: Hillbarn Theatre, 1285 East Hillsdale Boulevard, Foster City
Tickets: $25–$52. Call 650-349-6411, extension 2, or visit www.hillbarntheatre.org.
then becomes a handsome lover
Randy O'Hara, who has packed a lot of theater into his 28 years, is an old pro when it comes to Charles Dickens’ tale of abandoning greed to find redemption: He started performing in “A Christmas Carol” when he was a child.
In a local dinner theater in his hometown of Amesbury, Massachusetts, O’Hara said with a big laugh, “I was the turkey boy! I had three lines at the end of the show. … I worked at the theater through the rest of my school life. It was a ton of training. It was great, just two miles from my house.”
O’Hara did that version of the familiar tale 15 times, but these days he is appearing in the musical version, by Alan Menken and Lynn Ahrens, at Hillbarn Theatre in Foster City.
“I really am enjoying it,” O’Hara said during a phone interview before the show opened. “I’d never done the Alan Menken version. It is beautiful, mostly sung through like an operetta. Dan (Demers) is directing. Dan has a really cool concept for the show. We’ve been talking about it for months. Dan is so smart and creative — we both feel the same way about theater: Get together with people and tell good stories.”
Dan Demers is executive artistic director at Hillbarn.
“This is my first time doing ‘A Christmas Carol’ as an adult,” O’Hara said. “I am doubling in the roles of Jacob and the young Scrooge. It’s very different, playing those two characters. Quick change! I am being over the top glam rock star as Jacob, then come in as a youthful leading man, to a Disney waltz. Well, it sounds very Disney. I get a beautiful duet with the character of Emily (young Scrooge’s fiancée, played by Brenna Sammon). It’s a beautiful, absolutely gorgeous love song, and becomes a trio with the future Scrooge.”
It has to be noted that in August of 2017, O’Hara was the Hunchback in “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” at Hillbarn, his face partly buried under prosthetics. And just finished a run as Riff Raff in “The Rocky Horror Show” at Ray of Light Theatre in San Francisco, not only in make-up but also in heels.
And now, for “A Christmas Carol,” he enters as the ghost of Jacob Marley, wearing “Chains and keys and lockboxes and whatnot,” O’Hara said with a laugh. That costume change, to become the “youthful leading man,” is complicated, and quick.
The “cast is fantastic,” O’Hara said. Chris Reber as Ebenezer Scrooge and Jim Ambler as Bob Cratchit “do a beautiful job of carrying the show.”
Other key roles include Christina Bolognini as Anne Cratchit; Ben Ball and Jen Martinelli as the Mr. and Mrs. Fezziwig; Martinelli also doubles as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and is joined by Sammi Hildebrant as the Ghost of Christmas Past and Christine Baker as the Ghost of Christmas Future.
O’Hara, who came to the Bay Area in 2015 with husband Michael (who is doing his residency at Stanford) was named director of the Hillbarn Conservatory in April. “The Conservatory is fantastic,” said O’Hara of the program, which teaches theater skills to people usually between the ages of 5 and 18. “We’re currently getting ready for the winter season, teaching improve and singing. Addie Walters is choreographing ‘Urine Town’ in the Master Class series.
“It’s an amazing job. I love working with kids,” said O’Hara. “They had s great program already. Pushing those kids to grow in the theater is my favorite thing.”