‘Scrooge!’ sings classic tale of redemption

The struggle to change the past and to seek forgiveness and redemption is perhaps one of the world’s most famous tales. Fuse Productions will tell that story with “Scrooge! The Musical,” a show based on Charles Dickens’ beloved “A Christmas Carol.”

“Scrooge” is a classic holiday story set to stage by a cast of local actors, inclusding Tom McClary as Ebenezer Scrooge and Ashley Moore as Isabel, Scrooge’s ex-fiancée. The State Theatre production is directed by Richard Biever and choreographed by Jill A. Brighton, and with a cast of more than 30 children and adults, this family classic will delight all ages with wonderful songs such as “December the Twenty-Fifth,” “A Christmas Carol” and “Thank You Very Much.”

Born in Indianapolis, McClary earned an undergraduate degree in English and an MFA in drama with an emphasis in acting and directing. In 2005, McClary retired and moved to State College, returning to theater predominantly through his involvement in the State College Community Theatre. He has acted and directed with the SCCT and served on its board. McClary also has appeared in productions with The Next Stage, Singing on Stage and the Nittany Valley Symphony.

McClary said that, because this is his second season playing Scrooge, he doesn’t have as much of a learning curve as he did a year ago. Except for two brief periods in the first act, Scrooge is on stage for the full two hours of the production. McClary said the role requires much discipline and forethought, but it’s all part of the process.

“The biggest challenge for me artistically is finding the right balance for Scrooge’s personality; on the one hand, he really is a nasty geezer, but on the other, there is still a tiny bit of him that is worth saving. How do I show that?” he said. “Therefore, the trick for me is to make it believable that such a man could be transformed.”

McClary described Scrooge as a man who is given a second chance to turn his life around; not necessarily to change what has already been done, but to seek forgiveness and redemption for the mistakes he has made.

“Scrooge is a man who has had his share of disappointments — as we all do,” he said. “Unfortunately, he has allowed these events to turn him into a bitter, cynical, greedy and misanthropic grouch. He has to learn that only he can choose to change his life — and his choice is central to the theme of hope and redemption the musical conveys.”

“Scrooge!” is about transformation. Although most people aren’t quite as troubled as Ebenezer Scrooge, everyone can relate to thinking about mistakes made.

“But you can’t change the past, so you have to do something about the present moment,” Biever said. “That’s all we’ve got. And that’s the beauty of this story — that if the most unhappy person in the world can change, any of us can change.”

You would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t read 1843’s “A Christmas Carol” or seen a TV or film adaptation of the story.

“It’s one of those stories that either you’ve read on your own or maybe someone read it to you as a child,” Moore said. “It’s a story that stays with you, and I think the musical adaptation will appeal to children of all ages. Dare I say, ‘Kids from one to ninety-two?’ ”

Last year’s audience was made up of all ages, Biever said.

“We see a lot of families enjoying the show together, which is wonderful,” Biever said. “I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be moved by this timeless story.”

He added that, although he thinks this version is wonderfully entertaining, there is a sadness in watching Scrooge see the mistakes he made in the past.

“That’s the power of theater — witnessing someone else go through something that will help you,” he said. “My hope is that the audiences will be inspired to learn from the past and go forward with joy and a bit more awareness and empathy of what others are dealing with. It may be corny, but each one of us has the power to make a big difference in the world.”