WASHINGTON TERRACE — Think of it as Ebenezer Scrooge on steroids.
Back for its 27th consecutive season, Terrace Plaza Playhouse‘s “Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” opens Friday, Nov. 23, in the theater at 99 E. 4700 South. Except this time, the theater is running double casts and presenting shows six days a week for a full month.
In past years, the playhouse offered the musical thrice weekly — Mondays, Fridays and Saturday — then switched to nightly the week before Christmas. But audiences had grown so large in recent years that the entire run had become a sell-out, according to director Jacci Florence.
“We sent so many people away last year, we finally decided, ‘Let’s take the plunge,’” Florence said. “So we’ll be offering shows every single night of the week, except Sundays, through December.”
Opening day for the show is always the Friday after Thanksgiving. And while the run traditionally closes Dec. 23, that’s a Sunday this year. So the last show will be Dec. 22.
That’s a grand total of 24 performances being offered this year. In a typical year, Florence says they’ll offer 17 or 18.
“Each cast will do 12 performances, so actually with the double-casting each cast member will do fewer performances this year.”
This year, there’s a “Holly” cast and an “Ivy” cast, with about 66 actors in each. Ages range from 4 on up.
At age 66, “I think Kim and I are the oldest in the cast,” Florence said.
“Scrooge: A Christmas Carol” was Terrace Plaza Playhouse’s very first show when it opened back in 1992, and they’ve done it every year since then.
The first seven or eight years, Florence did the choreography while her mother, playhouse founder Beverly Olsen, directed. Later, when Olsen’s health began failing, Florence took over directing duties. She’s been directing the show for the better part of 20 years.
Also, since the third season Florence’s husband, Kim, has been cast in the title role. Last season, when Kim Florence had some health problems, they double cast Weber High School drama teacher Mark Daniels in the part.
It’s a good thing, too. Florence said her husband “got kidney stones so badly that had it not been double cast we would have had to cancel seven performances.”
Daniels, whom Florence calls “an absolute delight,” and Kim Florence are each heading up one of the casts this year.
“You couldn’t ask for two better Scrooges,” she said. “They’re different, but the same.”
In addition to directing both shows, Florence is playing the Ghost of Christmas Past in the cast with her husband.
Florence said they’d made the decision years ago that if they ever started to see audiences tapering off for the yearly Scrooge-fest they’d switch to another show — after all, there are plenty of other high-quality holiday musicals out there, like “Elf.”
But a change hasn’t been necessary.
“I said if we see things slow down we’d do something new, but it has only accelerated and continued to grow,” Florence said.
The reason for that growth, Florence thinks, is because the message of “A Christmas Carol” is timeless. And she thinks the story has had a transformative effect on the Dec. 25 holiday.
“I mean, it’s Charles Dickens,” she said. “The story has changed, I believe, how Christmas is celebrated. It changed the whole Christmas spirit.”
Florence said many families — both in the audience and onstage — have made the show a family holiday tradition. Often, “A Christmas Carol” is the only time many people step inside a theater all year long, according to Florence.
In other big news at Terrace Plaza Playhouse, Florence said they’re just putting the finishing touches on new carpeting and seating in the venue. The old seats were acquired — used — from the movie theaters at the Valley Fair Mall in West Valley City.
“They were already well-used when we put them in 27 years ago,” she said.
Going forward, the theater will have just under 300 seats. Florence says she looks forward to getting the new seating broken in.
“We have been so grateful for the community support,” she said. “I’m so glad audiences wore the seats out so we had to get new ones.”
What’s more, Florence said the need for new seats is a vindication of sorts for the 27-year-old theater.
“When the Coca-Cola people were installing the Coke machine in the theater back in 1992,” Florence recalls, “my mother overheard the workers say, ‘Yeah, I give ’em six months.’”
Twenty-seven years later, Beverly’s Terrace Plaza Playhouse is still going strong.
For more information or tickets, visit www.terraceplayhouse.com, or call 801-393-0070.