"Marley was dead, to begin with."
This is how Charles Dickens' classic "A Christmas Carol" begins, and is the opening line for "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol," by Tom Mula. However, the play, which opened at Weathervane Playhouse Dec. 1, veers off in a slightly different direction as the story (at times a revisioning) tells the tale of Scrooge's redemption through the eyes of his business partner.
"What is fascinating is that I've never ever thought of Marley before," said Larry Nehring, who both directs the show and plays Jacob Marley. "I was in the Great Lakes Theatre Festival's version of 'A Christmas Carol' off and on for years, but never thought of him as more than a warning for Scrooge. But in a way, Marley is a bit of the hero for 'A Christmas Carol.' He gets the ball rolling."
Four actors bring the assorted characters to life in this version. The play starts with Marley's view of the afterlife, where his character, he is told by the Recordskeeper (played by Bethany Stahler, who also plays several other characters) has been judged wanting. He is condemned to wander, shackled with heavy chains and money boxes that he had forged through his life as Scrooge's business partner. Marley is escorted through his new reality by Bogle (played by Brian Kenneth Armour), who serves as a reluctant spirit guide. Marley finds out about an opportunity to escape his fate and jumps on it -- without reading the fine print first. He realizes too late that his only hope of redemption is in trying to save the soul of Scrooge himself (played by Jason Bryan Maurer), whom even Marley loathes. Marley and Bogle are forced to work together and, during the process of trying to redeem Scrooge, they also redeem themselves as well.
Stahler said this is the first play she has ever been involved with onstage.
"It's been a lot of fun," she said. "It's a lot of learning, and I have to be quick on my feet, but it's been fun."
Maurer said that while he has had minor roles onstage before, he generally works backstage; indeed, he had initially been the stage manager for this show. The current stage manager is Michelle Conner. Maurer added he had never been cast in this large a role before.
"It's one of my favorite plays," Maurer said, adding that he had been involved with several productions in technical capacities. "I knew all the tech but I've never acted in it. I've done some things [on stage] but the scope of this was challenging."
The show seemed to be a hit with the opening night audience.
"It had comedy, but it had a bit of darkness," said Cecilia Sveda of Kent. "I like that it was different from the traditional 'Carol.'"
Ticket and show information
Tickets are $21 each. Tickets for seniors and college students are $19 each, and tickets for children ages 17 and younger are $5; the show is recommended for 12 and older. Additional discounts for groups of 12 or larger are also available.
Remaining shows are Dec. 12, 13, and 20 at 7:30 p.m.; and Dec. 15 and 22 at 2:30 p.m.
The Weathervane Playhouse box office is open Mondays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., Tuesdays through Fridays between 10 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. and is also open beginning one hour before each performance. For tickets, visit or call the Weathervane Box Office at 330-836-2626 during Box Office hours or connect online to www.weathervaneplayhouse.com.
Weathervane Playhouse is at 1301 Weathervane Lane in Akron.
Next on stage
Weathervane will produce "Next Fall" Jan. 10 through 26 in its Dietz Theatre. The theater's next mainstage show will be "Flyin' West," which will run Feb. 7 through 24.
In addition, the theater will have a holiday open house Dec. 12 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.