“Mr. Scrooge!” remakes old-fashioned Christmas tale into modern musical

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The familiar story of Ebeneezer Scrooge will be recast as a stage musical this December at Spartanburg Methodist College.

“Mr. Scrooge!” a modern and occasionally whimsical take on the Charles Dickens classic “A Christmas Carol,” will be presented at SMC Dec. 6 and Dec. 7 at 7:00 p.m. in Gibbs Auditorium of Ellis Hall. The public is invited and the performance is free.

The musical was written and scored by SMC music professor Lanny Lanford while he was in graduate school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. This will be the 36th consecutive year it has been staged – and the fifth in a row at SMC.

“I remember I did it my second year here and everything went well,” Lanford recalled. “Then they said they’d like me to do it again the next year. I said, ‘Why?’ They asked me to make it a tradition.”

By Lanford’s description, the musical features a variety of styles, from rock to salsa to “the cheesiest love song you’ve ever heard.” But it all moves along at an action-packed pace, he said, noting that he worked hard to condense the original story without losing its meaning or leaving Dickens purists upset.

Playing the lead role for the second year is Carl Gibson, who is a graduate of SMC and Furman University. Gibson will be joined by a cast made up primarily of current SMC students. Lanford said community members will take part in the chorus of carolers. In fact, he is still accepting participants. Those interested are encouraged to call 587-4275.

Lanford is a popular figure on the SMC campus, known as an enthusiastic and engaging classroom teacher as well as a talented chorus director. He leads SMC’s instrumental and choral ensembles, including the college’s travelling chorus, the Troubadours. Lanford earned his doctorate of musical arts in composition from the University of South Carolina. He achieved international acclaim by winning the International Composition Competition for “Les Chevaliers du Tastevin,” written in both French and English.

He said he loves working with students at SMC. As a two-year college, he noted, students “don’t have to wait long for an opportunity. And there’s always fresh talent to work with.”

It is always exciting to see a performance come together, Lanford said. “It’s a constant joy to see a group come so far in a short amount of time. There’s always fear and trepidation at first, but by the end of it they really feel like they’ve accomplished something. That’s one of the things I wake up for every day.”