Since 2011, North Texas Performing Arts (NTPA) has put on its annual holiday production of “Scrooge the Musical.” And this year, despite the ongoing pandemic, the show will still go on – just with some adjustments for the health and safety of both performers and audience members. Darrell Rodenbaugh, longtime NTPA supporter and current CEO, will celebrate his 10th year acting the role of Scrooge this December.
“How delightful it has been to direct and observe my friend, Darrell, tackle the iconic role of Scrooge for the past nine years. He brings such heart to the character. In rehearsal and performance, he never gives less than 100 percent,” shared NTPA founder and Vice President of Community Outreach Sara Egelston Akers.
NTPA was founded as Plano Children’s Theatre in 1991 to develop the character of youth through quality performing arts education and family entertainment. The nonprofit has since expanded to multiple North Texas cities, and is now the largest youth-dedicated theater troupe in the country, according to its website.
The theater’s annual production of “Scrooge the Musical” is based on Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella, “A Christmas Carol.” This year’s production is directed by award-winning off-Broadway and international performer Mike Mazur, with support from music and children’s director Kaitlyn Wright and choreographer Hannah Makepeace.
Darrell says playing Scrooge is a source of great joy. The opportunity to share Christmas themes of redemption and grace keep him coming back to the role year after year. Not only that, but this show is also a family affair for the Rodenbaughs. Darrell’s son, Christopher, played the role of Young Scrooge from 2011 through 2015, and is back this year to reprise that role alongside his father.
“It means a great deal to me to be able to take the stage again alongside my dad in this special anniversary year,” shared Christopher.
“It feels different each year. The first year, I was volunteered to do Scrooge. I didn’t realize how big a part it was, and I had no idea what I was getting into. I really struggled with my lines. I remember the director telling me, ‘Stop trying to rewrite Dickens!’” Darrell recalled with a laugh.
The first year he played Scrooge, he placed cheat sheets everywhere to help him with his lines. They were on the desk, the bed, even inside of a tree. Ten years later, Darrell’s not too worried about remembering his lines anymore.
He says his favorite part about “Scrooge the Musical” is the change the audience witnesses in Scrooge’s heart. At the beginning, the character is crochety, grumpy and misanthropic. Initially to get into character, Darrell had to practice being a grump. This meant going to the store in his off time, standing in line among strangers and feigning grumpiness.
Chuckling, he shared that people really would get out of the way and steer clear of him when he was pretending to be Scrooge in public.
“Through the show, Scrooge evolves. He learns about himself. He realizes that he’s made some mistakes and can redeem himself. That, for me, is the real joy in the role, why I keep coming back – the gift of redemption, the recognition that we can all decide that we want to change our lives and wake up tomorrow and be a different person than we were yesterday,” remarked Darrell. “That’s the power and grace of the role.”
COVID Health Precautions
To ensure the safety of all attendees and performers, NTPA has been practicing stringent health precautions since reopening. During “Scrooge the Musical,” the theater will be capped at 30 percent capacity to ensure social distancing. During the show, there will never be more than 25 actors onstage at once. All actors will be wearing masks and maintaining six feet of distance between one another. Wearing masks will obviously cause limitations of facial expressions, so they plan to compensate for that through more dramatic body language.
But true to tradition, there will still be pre-show Christmas carolers at every performance, and Santa will be making some surprise appearances onstage.
For the last several years, NTPA has given away tickets for special Gift to the Community performances of “Scrooge” to anyone experiencing financial difficulty. This year, free in-person tickets were offered to military veterans, medical professionals and anyone who has been financially distressed by COVID-19. Qualifying individuals who didn’t receive an in-person ticket may request a free virtual ticket online.
“This is a tradition I’m very proud of. I remember the first couple years we did it, talking to the families. I talked to kids who may have slept in their car the night before. For many of them, this was the only Christmas they were going to get,” Darrell shared of the Gift to the Community performances.
“As I sometimes say, this story is history’s second greatest Christmas story,” Darrell said. “Scrooge shows us that we all have a chance to start all over again.”
Performances run Dec. 9-20. Viewers may choose to purchase in-person or virtual tickets.
North Texas Performing Arts
6121 West Park Boulevard B216
Plano, TX 75093