Christmas favorite returns to CLO

By Larissa Gula

For many actors and audiences, December means not only the holidays, but also an opportunity to revisit a favorite reformed miser — Ebenezer Scrooge. “A Musical Christmas Carol”

Dec. 9-23

Directed by Tim Gregory

Byham Theater

Tickets: $26.75-$46.75

412-456-6666 or online at

For many actors and audiences, December means not only the holidays, but also an opportunity to revisit a favorite reformed miser — Ebenezer Scrooge.

Pittsburgh CLO presents its 19th installment of “A Musical Christmas Carol” this month, with most of its cast returning to take on new characters or reprise old ones. Actor Tom Atkins, for example, will reassume his role as Scrooge.

The show is one of countless adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novella about Scrooge, a curmudgeon who receives a series of visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future on Christmas Eve. He begins learning about himself and what his future will hold for him if he does not change his tune — “Bah, humbug!” — and greedy ways.

The story overall captures the joy of the holidays and the musical remains loyal to the original plot, according to director Tim Gregory, who has a history with the show, both acting in it and directing another adaptation for five years in Washington.

“I think families would certainly appreciate this version,” Gregory said about the production. “It’s pretty loyal. Of course there are always additions, because the music does not exist in the novella that Dickens wrote.”

The theme, however, remains the power of transformation that Scrooge embodies, according to Gregory.

“You see someone go from one place to another, into the complete opposite of what they have been,” he said. “To be redeemed is a powerful thing to observe and experience.”

Pitt alumna Allison Scarlet Jaye plays Mrs. Cratchit, welcomed by the cast and crew for her debut with Pittsburgh CLO. Jaye graduated from Pitt in 2006 with a degree in humanities but also with plenty of acting experience, having aspired to be an actress from a young age.

“I felt very much a part of the theater community even though I wasn’t technically a theater major, and my post-college life is due in part because of the advice of the theater department,” she said.

The musical production has offered Jaye a wonderful experience behind the scenes as well as on stage, she said.

“Everyone is warm and welcoming and fun,” she said. “We’re all peers. Each member is an integral part of telling the story and this show wouldn’t be the same without the street vendor or the last little kid.”

“From behind the scenes, being at rehearsal and practicing the songs and joking around while being focused, the sense of togetherness we have is also part of the story and the moral. Without each other we are nothing, and Scrooge discovers this after isolating himself off and ruining quite a few relationships and opportunities because he wasn’t with anyone.”

And though Jaye’s biggest challenge is learning all the verses to English carols she otherwise wouldn’t know all the way through, the music is a crucial element in the production.

“It’s a story everyone knows, told in a vivid and visceral way,” Jaye said. “We connect to carols. We’ve been singing them since we were little. But it’s also new. There are things mysterious about the show or even magical. It’s the way of watching a private scene we all connect to and relate to. I say, bring tissues.”

Caitlin Elizabeth Reilly is returning to “A Musical Christmas Carol” for her seventh run with the production. She is taking on the roles of Miss Watkins and Martha Cratchit. With a family in Pittsburgh that has always been involved in theater, Reilly acted in the production as a child from 1995 to 1998 and took on other roles every few years.

“This show really is my absolute favorite show,” Reilly said. “The majority of the cast are people who have known me since I was a kid. I live in Philadelphia, so I come home to do the show and be with my parents. It’s part of the tradition. The family has seen the show a ton of times. It’s a major part of the holidays.”

For Reilly, the challenge is to stay in character — and not regress and say the lines she would have said in a different role.

“I’ve never played these characters, so it’s kind of interesting and it’s hard to not go back to what I was doing before,” Reilly said. “There are scenes I used to do as old characters where I have to hold back.”

Just like Jaye, Reilly has had minimal problems adapting to the new role and feels a sense of togetherness with the cast. She’s confident that audiences will feel genuine holiday joy and spirit from the cast as they perform “A Musical Christmas Carol.”

“The kids on stage are adorable and fun to work with, and the cast genuinely likes each other,” Reilly said. “This is clear to the audience that we’re a big family and we laugh more than most productions of a show would. I think that joy is a huge strength of the production.”