Meet Returning Cast Members

StageNotes - A Christmas Carol

Many Happy Returns:  A Christmas Carol ‘Feels Like Family’ for Returning Cast

By Theresa MacNaughton, Communications and Community Engagement Associate

Shauna Miles, Kenneth De Abrew and the cast of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Shauna Miles, Kenneth De Abrew and the cast of A Christmas Carol. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

For Kenneth De Abrew, Shauna Miles and John-Andrew Morrison, the decision to return for the 21stseason of A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas was an easy one. The three actors, who made their debuts in Hartford Stage’s beloved Dickens’ tale of redemption last year, agree the company feels like family. They join nine other principal cast members in reprising their roles.

“I absolutely loved becoming a member of the Christmas Carol family last year,” Miles exclaimed. “The entire cast, crew and Greater Hartford community was so incredibly welcoming. I’m so happy to be back!”

Miles, who plays Mrs. Fezziwig and Mrs. Cratchit, added that the continued presence of core cast members season after season lends to “a comfort and enjoyment behind-the- scenes that can’t help but transcend the stage.”

John-Andrew Morrison, who took over the role of the mysterious clockmaker Mr. Marvel from Michael Preston last year, loved his first time working with the company of A Christmas Carol. He fondly recalls the warm welcome he received and the guidance provided by veteran Christmas Carolcast member Michael Preston. “Michael had played my part for many years,” Morrison said. “He literally walked me through my entire part while preparing to do this behemoth role (Ebenezer Scrooge). Such graciousness and kindness was in evidence throughout the entire engagement.”

Michael Preston, John-Andrew Morrison. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.
Michael Preston, John-Andrew Morrison. Photo by T. Charles Erickson.

Kenneth De Abrew, who portrays jolly Mr. Fezziwig, was also taken with the genuine kinship among the large cast, crew and creative team. “The production quality is exceptionally high, and I had the joy of working with some amazing actors who are now my friends,” he explained. “I also enjoyed working with students from the Hartt School and the child actors. It was a fulfilling experience as an artist to work with a creative team lead by director Rachel Alderman and Michael Preston.”

The spectacle, magic and wonder of A Christmas Carol – A Ghost Story of Christmas can be daunting to those who are unfamiliar with it. But De Abrew, Miles and Morrison immediately felt at home. One favorite memory from their first season was watching Alan Rust’s grand entrance as the Ghost of Christmas Present during rehearsals. “When I saw it in tech, my jaw hit the floor,” Morrison recalls. “I think Kenneth and I watched it from backstage just about every performance because it’s magical, and we see how the magic is made backstage and it’s still awesome.”  De Abrew added, “I love it – it never gets old!”

Miles fondly recalls meeting and speaking with audience members, while still in costume, in the Hartford Stage lobby after the annual Community Benefit performance of A Christmas Carol.  “A good portion of the audience members were not regular theatregoers and, as such, were uniquely engaged in the show. It was really a privilege to perform for them,” she noted.

“The community benefit really moved me,” Morrison added. “I spoke with two people who said they had never been to a theatre production before. They thought it was not for them. Hartford Stage made an effort to invite people in and say to them, ‘This is for you.’ Theatres can be intimidating places. The fact that we swung the doors open and let folks know what it’s all about, and that we want them to be a part of it, was just incredible. It made me proud.”

De Abrew likened the atmosphere of the benefit performance to a party. “The audience is so in tune with the show, and they had a great time meeting with the actors after the show,” he said.

In addition to the benefit performance, student matinees, and regular shows, Hartford Stage produces a sensory-friendly performance of A Christmas Carol each year. The performance has been carefullydesigned to create a welcoming and safe environment for individuals with autism or other sensory needs.De Abrew, Miles and Morrison enjoyed the opportunity to perform this show for audiences who don’t often get to experience live theatre and are eager to stage it again this again this season. “It is a very thoughtful, special performance,” De Abrew noted.

“The sensory show was done with such incredible care. Every detail was thought through, and the audience was taken care of in the most beautiful and generous way,” Morrison said. “I love that Hartford Stage made a space for this audience to simply be an audience; that caregivers didn’t have to apologize or make any accommodations for their loved ones to go to the theatre.”

Miles enjoys the opportunity to perform A Christmas Carol before diverse groups of audience members. “It was endlessly fascinating to witness the varied and unique ways each group would respond to the elements of the show that really resonated with them,” she explained. “It was also quite satisfying to perform a show that really does have the ability to appeal to virtually anyone – regardless of age, gender or socio-economics.”

“A live theatre production is, among many things, a transfer of energy between the actors and audience. Therefore, every single show is unique and can never quite be replicated exactly the same way,” De Abrew said. “In this production, the student shows are quite different from adult audiences because of what moments each audience reacts to most. Sometimes during student shows, the children are terrified of the ghosts. This is not as common in the regular shows.”

All three actors come into their second year with the company inspired by the strong sense of community and tradition thatA Christmas Carol brings. De Abrew said it is a “pleasure and humbling experience to be part of such a rich tradition” and is grateful for the friendships he’s made.

Morrison added, “There were audience members in the lobby who would say things to me like, ‘I come every year with my family’ and ‘It’s not Christmas for me until I see this show.’ People love it, and the message of love and kindness is so necessary. If we get a reminder once a year to love each other more, how fantastic is that?”