Charles Dickens nailed it. “There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.”
Cue the Astor Street Opry Co.
“Scrooged in Astoria” opens Friday, Nov. 30, and runs four weekends through Saturday, Dec. 22.
The show tells a similar story to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” He is a devout miser until the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future appear to pry his tight-fisted hand from the grindstone.
This ASOC version is revamped in the style of an old-style TV show — complete with commercial interruptions. Scrooge is Max Krooke, Jr., the returning villain from “Shanghaied in Astoria.”
The play has been an Astoria holiday fixture for 12 years. It takes up the story of the characters in the company’s summer show “Shanghaied” some dozen years later. It was written and first directed by Judy Niland of Astoria and features original music by Phil Morrill. More recent productions were coordinated by Bill Carr, another ASOC stalwart.
“My goal for ‘Scrooged’ is to connect the audience to their personal memories of a good old-fashioned time of being home for the holidays,” Niland said. “I filled it with sentimental songs, togetherness, a house full of bright holiday decor, along with a few laughs and surprises, hoping in the end you’ll walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling that can make your spirit bright.”
This production is co-directed by Stephanie Osborn and her husband, Jon Osborn. Their daughter, Melody, appears an angel —at just 17 weeks old — and Jon’s father, Jim Osborn, appears, too.
Stephanie Osborn’s involvement began seven years ago. Though she had sung in choirs since fourth grade, she had never acted. She was cast in “Scrooged” when she and Jon were dating and contributed to subsequent productions, acting and backstage doing lights, costumes, hair and make-up.
While appearing as key characters Eric and Virginia during “Shanghaied” a while ago, Jon interrupted a curtain call to kneel and propose marriage, cheered on by cast and audience; naturally, their wedding was held at the playhouse.
Stephanie Osborn will play Miss Yul Macie, the Ghost of Christmas Presents, a role originated by long-serving ASOC talent ChrisLynn Taylor.
Taylor has written the commercials, is helping with music while coaching Osborn.
Describing her delight before a rehearsal, Osborn conceded directing was new. “I’m learning,” she said. “There’s a lot of work in this play.” She has cast 10 children aged 17 months to 17. “It’s a circus in here most nights . . . I absolutely love it! I have a fantastic cast.”
Max Krooke Jr.
Zach Sandoval, an enthusiastic contributor to ASOC, won the lead role of Max Krooke Jr.
“It’s kind of a challenge to memorize my own lines,” he said, reflectively, when asked about playing his first lead.
Does he enjoy playing the creation Dickens labeled a “squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous, old sinner”? Sandoval relished answering in character: “I feel villainous when I play it,” he said, adding a devilish laugh. “Ha! Ha! Ha!”
As Santa, Jim Osborn and his elf, Maddison Beauparland, act as narrators; Osborn also portrays a grizzled miner. Julien Thomas is the villain’s sidekick, Sneake, and Beth Beauparland is Sneake’s wife, Vivian, who previously owned Miss Vivian’s Saloon and works as Krooke’s housekeeper.
Nate Bucholz, an ASOC veteran who has also mentored Osborn, is the Ghost of Christmas Past in the shape of Krooke’s father, the “Big” Krooke. Shasta Stolle, an Ilwaco High School sophomore portrays Saint Lucia, the Ghost of Christmas Future.
Casting intentionally adds visual humor, exploiting height and age incongruities. Linetta (Roby) Warner, who is 18, portrays a mother of five children who is pregnant with twins.
Turnout for male actors at auditions was light, but serendipity reigned. Travis Boggs chaperoned his daughter Brooklynn, chosen to play the young Virginia, Osborn’s first role years ago. Directors needed someone to portray her father; who better?
“It is very cool that they have that opportunity to play father-daughter on stage,” said Osborn. “He said, ‘Sure,’ jumped head first, right in, and has been fantastic.”
Similarly, Jennifer Sturdivant attended auditions to support her son Nicholas, chosen for the role of the young Max Krooke. His mom earned a role, too.
Also appearing are Adam Haase, Paula Fisher, Lexi Blacksten, Frank Rizzi, Casey Dopp, Melora Grenier, Aubrey Paz, Vivian Burnam and Lyla Miller.
Stephanie Osborn’s reward is looming. “It’s the smiles and the happiness that we get to feel in here, especially during the holiday season,” she said.
“I am here to make people smile and laugh — and laughter brings joy to so many people. I am here with my family and new friends.”