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Totem Pole Playhouse presents new take on a classic

From Jim Henson's Muppets portraying the Cratchit family to Mister Magoo taking on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale has inspired a variety of adaptations.

This week Totem Pole Playhouse, in partnership with Gettysburg Community Theatre, will present its new take on "A Christmas Carol" at Gettysburg College's Majestic Theater. Director Rowan Joseph said the production's freshly penned script hearkens back to the original novel's words.

"Ninety-five to 98 percent of the words that are spoken on stage are Charles Dickens' words," said Joseph, 59, of Fayetteville.

Additionally, the show will emphasize the story's theme of Christian charity instead of presenting a modernized, secular story.

"Basically we put Christ back into 'A Christmas Carol,'" Joseph said.

"Our production literally opens with a prayer," he said. "It closes with a prayer. When the Cratchits sit down for Christmas dinner they say grace. That's kind of unusual for 'Christmas Carol' productions, but not for the novel."

Joseph took the reins at Totem Pole Playhouse in 2013 and vowed to revive the the annual production of "A Christmas Carol" in Chambersburg, which was a tradition from 1987 to 2004 at Central Center and later the Capitol Theater. Last year's production received an "overwhelming response," Joseph said.

The show outgrew its Chambersburg home though, so to comply with its contract with the Actor's Equity Association, Totem Pole had to relocate the production to the Majestic Theater this year.

The new venue allows for a larger cast and set, Joseph said. A cast of more than 40 actors, many of them local, will bring the story to life, and special effects, such as cast members flying, will enhance the experience, Joseph said.

Totem Pole has signed a four-year agreement with the Majestic Theater to present the show every Christmas season through December 2019. It will be the focus of Destination Gettysburg's marketing campaign, "Holidays in Gettysburg," which will showcase the town's theater, dining and shopping.

"I expect (the show) will be there for a long time," he said. "It's a wonderful, beautiful facility."

Community is not only a theme in "A Christmas Carol," Joseph said, but also the focus of Totem Pole's production. For instance, show attendees will receive "Scrooge Dolllars" with their program, which may be redeemed at local businesses, and some of the actors in the show are students at Gettysburg College working toward their union card.

"It's not just a show in a theater," he said. "It's part of the community. I think that will build every year. I know that will build every year."

If you go:

Evenings: Dec. 11, 12, 18 and 19 at 8 p.m.

Matinees: Dec. 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 17 and 19 at 2 p.m.

Student performances costing $6 per local student, courtesy of a grant from the Adams County Community Foundation, will be held at 10 a.m. on Dec. 10, 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18.

Admission for the show ranges from $36 to $30 for adults and $20 for students.

Tickets are on sale now online at and through the Majestic Theater box office by calling 717-337-8200 or in person at 25 Carlisle St. in Gettysburg.