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Celebrating 25 years of 'Christmas Carol'

December 03, 2004

Tom Titus

The more things change, they say, the more they stay the same. Case

in point: Back in 1980, South Coast Repertory was preparing to mount

a new production of "A Christmas Carol" with John-David Keller

directing and Hal Landon Jr. taking the role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

Well, 25 years later, Keller and Landon still are doing their

respective things, as they've done for the past quarter century, and

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Charles Dickens' classic tale, adapted for the stage by South Coast

Repertory's Jerry Patch, continues to entertain local audiences. The

latest version opens this weekend.

And Landon isn't the only member of the 1980 cast who's still

around for the silver anniversary. Founding artists Richard Doyle,

Don Took, Martha McFarland and Art Koustik continue to spend their

Decembers bringing the spirit (and spirits) of Christmas to

enraptured youngsters (and oldsters), although none has the perfect

25-year attendance record that Landon possesses.

Koustik, however, comes close -- he missed only two productions,

in 1990 and 1991, and then only because he was injured in a

motorcycle accident. Doyle filled in for him as Fezziwig and the

scavenger Joe.

Other company members who've been aboard for numerous productions

of "A Christmas Carol" include actors Howard Shangraw and Hisa

Takakuwa, set designer Cliff Faulkner (recently replaced by Thomas

Buderwitz), costumer Dwight Richard Odle, lighting designers Tom and

Donna Ruzika, musical director Dennis Castellano and choreographer

Linda Kostalik.

For many years, John Ellington was the personification of Bob

Cratchit, Scrooge's humble clerk. Lately, Daniel Blinkoff has assumed

this mantle. Jennifer Parsons has taken over the role of Mrs.

Cratchit -- played for a decade by Marilyn Fox -- and Travis Vaden

will be playing Ebenezer as a young man.

And then there are the kids -- local youngsters enrolled in South

Coast Repertory's Young Conservatory, as was my 11-year-old son, Tim,

when he played the "turkey boy" back in 1984. His name, along with

everyone else's who ever trod the boards in "A Christmas Carol" over

the past quarter century, is listed in a special feature in the

company's current newsletter.

That particular reminiscence puts the South Coast Repertory show

in perspective. Tim is 31 now, a high school English teacher and

occasional pinch hitter in this column, and he still makes it a point

to visit the theater during "A Christmas Carol" season, as have many

people who grew up with the show. He says, "It doesn't feel like

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