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‘A Christmas Carol’ returns

Westfield school to present Knappenberger’s adaptation for third time

Photo by David Prenatt Westfield Academy and Central School music teacher Kent Knappenberger plays the piano while students practice the opening song of “A Christmas Carol,” being presented tonight and Saturday.

By DAVID PRENATT

editorial@observertoday.com

WESTFIELD — Among the two dozen adaptations of Charles Dickens’ 1843 classic tale, “A Christmas Carol,” the version crafted by Grammy Award recipient and music educator, Kent Knappenberger, has become a popular tradition at Westfield Academy and Central School.

Knappenberger said the show was first produced at WACS in 2008, and this November will mark the third time the play is being presented. “It was suggested by our set designer to make it an annual tradition,” Knappenberger said. “Since we own the props and sets and costumes, we do not have to buy a lot of stuff.”

Knappenberger said he was looking for a show with a good message and a show that would involve a lot of his students. He said about 50 kids are involved in the production.

While Knappenberger’s original score clearly conveys what Dickens intended, “to alert us all to the suffering in the world,” it also provides background about Ebenezer Scrooge’s childhood and his motivations. “Scrooge suffered as a child,” Knappenberger said. “I’ve inferred that Scrooge, in order to mask his pain, clings to his money as a way to have some control.”

Knappenberger noted that there are two children in the story, Ignorance and Want. While the Ghost of Christmas Present is cautioning all of mankind when he introduces the two children, he wants Scrooge to see his self-imposed ignorance. “They’re both bad,” Knappenberger said, “but the one you need to really beware is Ignorance.”

Knappenberger said he thinks his students and the audience need this show now, more than ever. “They need to ask themselves, ‘Are you going to turn to anger or hold on to something artificial or look for something good?'” he said.

Knappenberger said the cast is comprised mainly of students in grades 7 through 12, but a second grader is playing Tiny Tim. Twin boys, Collin and Cody Hoffman, portray young Scrooge.

The Hoffman boys deliver a song which illustrates what the young Scrooge is going through. “I think the song we do is powerful, like what he’s going through,” Collin said. Cody followed up by saying, “It has a lot of emotion to it.”

Katie Bodenmiller, who portrays the Ghost of Christmas Past agrees with the Hoffman twins. “The song they do is my favorite song in the musical,” she said.

Bodenmiller also said that being in the play makes her a more grateful person. “I think it really helps me appreciate my family more and appreciate that we’re able to have a nice Christmas, and not be like the Cratchits,” she said.

Hayden Backus, who portrays the Ghost of Christmas Present, said he likes that he can express the attitude that his character embodies. “I like that I can bring that spirit,” he said. “I see that a lot of people are down on something or against something for no reason, and all they need is a little push or a good push to change their attitude,” he said.

Clayton Kircher, who plays Bob Cratchit, says he feels the characters struggles. “Playing Bob, it’s difficult to be in a family with such poverty,” he said. “He’s constantly fighting to make everyone happy.”

For those who agree with Charles Dickens that there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humour, “A Christmas Carol,” with Knappenberger’s original score, will be presented at Westfield Academy and Central School tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in the school auditorium.

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