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Westfield High Presents 'A Christmas Carol'

Featuring Centreville businessman Jim Mitchell as Scrooge and theater director Scott Pafumi as Bob Cratchit, Westfield High presents "A Christmas Carol," Dec. 19 at 8 p.m., Dec. 20 at 2 and 8 p.m. and Dec. 21 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are $10, adults; $5, students and children. Call 703-488-6430. The cast of 70 includes elementary, middle and high-school students, plus adults, so it's true community theater.

"It's a gift of the community to the community," said Pafumi, who's co-directing with parent Lori Knickerbocker. "It's also a fund-raiser. Part of the proceeds will go toward the theater students' Chicago field trip in April."

FIFTEEN SINGERS from Westfield's choral department are performing, and a crew of 20 under student technical director Megan Thrift, 16, will make 1860s London come to life. She's in charge of set design and construction and oversees props, lighting and sound.

"The only stationary set is the town scene," she said. "We'll have shops and street-corner oil lamps, plus wagons and vendor carts moving back and forth. It's going to look really cool."

All the other sets — Scrooge's bedroom, the counting house, Cratchit's house, Fred's party, the graveyard and the schoolhouse — are on wheels. Thrift said techs "bring to the stage the one thing that actors can't — everything on it."

"I think the audience will be blown away," she said. "It's like nothing we've ever done before. We've never had this many sets moving on and off, and we're using a 'mid-stage traveler' — a curtain dividing the stage in two [crossways] so the stationary town set hides behind it while a moveable set is taking center stage."

Students Megan Henry and Carolyn Agan narrate the play. "We've combined three texts and created our own version," said Pafumi. "We used the original story by Charles Dickens, a public reading he did and dialogue and a few musical numbers from the musical production of 'A Christmas Carol.'"

As Ebenezer Scrooge, Mitchell wears a black top hat and caped coat and carries a cane. He describes his character as a "miserable, old miser whose only pleasure is hoarding money and taking advantage of others." As a result, he's horribly unhappy.

"Through the play, he has this epiphany that life is about taking care of and enjoying other people," said Mitchell. "He also learns he can make a positive difference in other people's lives."

Although he has "a tremendous amount of lines," Mitchell's delighted to participate. "This is one of the great classics that we've all read and seen — and one of the great roles," he said. "Scrooge is a cultural icon. I think the audience is going to love the play. With Scott Pafumi's direction, this is a totally unique interpretation [of a] timeless story, and the talent of the ensemble is just enormous."

SEVERAL ACTORS are related to each other. Mitchell's son Pat, a Westfield's grad, plays his nephew Fred; Pafumi's wife Helen plays his wife, Mrs. Cratchit, and son Eli, 4, plays their youngest child. Billy Clay, a Bulldog baseball coach, portrays the mayor, and real-life son Kevin, 11, is Tiny Tim; daughter Kelly is in the ensemble.

Drama booster dad Kevin Ford plays Scrooge's former boss, Mr. Fezziwig, and real daughter Ashley plays his daughter, Isabel.

Westfield alum Courtney Reed is the ghost of Christmas past; Barry Armbruster, ghost of Christmas present; and Brian Randall, ghost of Christmas future. Derek Rommel plays Jacob Marley, and Yvonne Henry (Megan's mom) choreographed the holiday ball and plays Mrs. Fezziwig.

Pafumi says his role as family-man Cratchit is fitting since he's a "man of many children" at school and at home (three). "It's fun getting to act off of Jim [Mitchell] and with my wife and students," he said. "Probably the weirdest part will be being backstage during the show, instead of out in the house, watching and taking notes."

As mayor, Billy Clay solicits money from Scrooge for the poor and is initially rebuffed. "I love [my role]," he said. "Since I'm a coach, my springs are full of baseball, so this was an opportunity to be with my kids, and it's really been fun."

Kevin Clay, a Virginia Run Elementary fifth-grader, played the lead in the Westfield Summer Stage production of "Oliver." As the crippled Tiny Tim, instead of being depressed, he's cheerful. Kevin said it hurts to walk on just one leg, but he's thrilled to get to sing "Silent Night" because "singing is my favorite part about theater."

College freshman Reed says her character is a "girly ghost — ditzy, annoying, in-your-face. She shows Scrooge past Christmases when he was a boy and reminds him how his life could have been different if he'd made different choices.

"I'VE KNOWN Mr. Mitchell a long time, so it's fun to be able to bug him," she said. "I bop him with my wand, stick it in his face and throw fairy dust on him." Regarding the play, she said, "Because we have actors from younger kids through adults — instead of high-schoolers pretending to be older or younger — it makes it more realistic for the audience."

Michelle Polera, 16, portrays a thief, an urchin and a townsperson. She and two other thieves "steal Scrooge's stuff from his house, in the future when he's dead, and crack jokes about him," she said. "It's exciting to have so many different roles."

Junior Megan Meadows plays a townsperson, dancer and singer (she's also a member of Westfield's Dance Team and Show Choir). She sings and dances in Fezziwig's party scene to the number, "Thank You Very Much," which she describes as "joyous and upbeat."

"It's a lot of fun," said Meadows. "The show's a good combination of acting and singing, and it's a great way to brighten the holidays."

Stage manager is Helen Lynn, 16, who takes notes about the blocking and calls all the light and sound cues during the play. She also keeps order during rehearsals.

"I want to be a professional stage manager someday," she said. "I like this production because I'm getting to work with adults — and not just kids, and also with children, as opposed to peers my own age. I have a lot of respect for actors, and I love working with them."

Co-director Lori Knickerbocker has extensive directing, stage managing and producing experience in community and high-school theater. And she and Pafumi have wanted to do a community-type production ever since Westfield opened in September 2000.

The two make a good team, she said, because "I'm very detail-oriented, and he's the arts guy — he sees the big picture. It's worked out really well and been a good experience."

And she, too, sees "A Christmas Carol" as a holiday gift for the community, bringing good cheer to the season. "It's a happy show you can bring your family to," said Knickerbocker. "We're hoping it'll be a Christmas tradition and we'll do some sort of holiday show, each year."