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'God Bless Us, Everyone'

'A Christmas Carol' Is Chantilly's Cappies play.

Just in time for the holidays, Chantilly High presents its Cappies play, "A Christmas Carol," Monday through Wednesday, Dec. 20, 21 and 22, at 7 p.m., in the school auditorium. The $4 tickets are available in advance and at the door; call 703-222-8182.

IN ADDITION, prior to Monday's show, from 6-7 p.m., and during intermission, Chantilly fine arts students will display artwork in the main lobby of the theater, throughout the hallways and in the library gallery. Refreshments will be served, and a student string quartet will entertain.

"A Christmas Carol" is Charles Dickens' classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge, and Chantilly's rendition features a cast of 35 and crew of 10. "I've always loved doing this show but, over the years, it's gotten a little silly," said drama director Ed Monk. "I like to do a more dramatic version to tell what the story's all about, and the kids are doing a good job of it."

Senior Faqir Qarghar, 17, plays Scrooge. "Initially, he's a complete jerk," said Qarghar. "He doesn't care about anybody, and he's cold-hearted, hollow and emotionless. But I like him because, in the end, he has a great epiphany and becomes one of the nicest people ever."

He said the toughest part of his role is showing Scrooges's emotional changes as he encounters each ghost. "And there's a lot of lines to memorize," said Qarghar. "Whenever I have a spare moment, I read the script."

NEARLY 100 Cappies critics will attend Monday's performance, but that shouldn't phase the actors. "Mr. Monk said, first we please him, then the audience and then the Cappies critics," said Qarghar. "We're really doing this for the community so everyone has a nice, Christmasy experience.

Faith McAuliffe, 16, is the narrator. "In between scenes and as time is passing, I'll come in with a candle and explain things — like Scrooge flying — which is hard to portray on stage," she said. "It's a story people have heard a lot, but the way we're doing it should be a really gripping performance."

Senior Brian McDonald, 17, is Scrooge's employee, Bob Cratchit. "He's a hard worker and strong-willed," said McDonald. "He won't quit his job because he needs it to support his family. But he's really a fun dad at home."

He auditioned for the role because it's different from parts he's played before: "Sometimes I'm the bad guy, but Cratchit is somebody everybody pities and likes." He especially likes when Cratchit's with his family "because I get to be big, goofy and a comedic guy."

McDonald believes the audience will like the play because "it's a warm-hearted Christmas story everyone knows, it's a good adaptation and we've worked really hard on it."

Playing Cratchit's son, Tiny Tim, is sophomore Chloe West, 15. "He's about 8, is really sick and malnourished and has a bad leg and coughing spasms," she said. "But he's really joyful and thankful for everything he has — which isn't a lot. He's kinda naive and doesn't realize his family's financial state."

She wanted this role because "Tiny Tim's such a memorable character. When you think about the show, you think about Scrooge, Cratchit and Tiny Tim." She said it's hard playing a boy "because you have to think about the way you sit and a boy's body positioning. And since he has a bad leg, I have to use my arms a lot when I sit down."

But West said it's fun portraying someone so different from her real self. And she hopes that "the audience will be so entranced with the acting we're doing that they'll forget to speak or breathe — and they'll cry. I hope they'll forget they're in a theater watching a play and will really be involved in what's happening."

APRIL GLICK, 16, plays teen-aged Cratchit daughter Beth. "She's religious and is part of a loving, God-fearing family," said Glick. "And they're so poor that there's a line where the narrator says, 'Since there was not enough food [for the Cratchits' Christmas feast], love filled up the rest and no one left feeling hungry.'" She said the actors playing the Cratchits get along really well, so there's "a nice family dynamic."

And she's excited since it's her first Cappies production. "We're one of the few Cappies shows in December, so a lot of critics are coming," continued Glick. "And the more people that come, the more opinions we'll get and the better chance we have of winning. But all I really want to do is put on a good show for the audience. Mr. Monk says all that really matters is how you feel about your performance."

Senior Meredith Lynch, 17, is doing double duty as both an actress and costume designer. On stage, she's Mrs. Cratchit, Bob Cratchit's wife. "She's an incredibly strong woman — the glue holding the family together. Because Tiny Tim's dying, the father can't handle it. Mr. Cratchit is an optimist, and Mrs. Cratchit is more of a realist."

Lynch said it's one of her most difficult roles because her character "has to go from extremely angry, one minute, to singing Christmas carols, the next." But she likes the challenge and stimulation of such a dramatic part because "I usually play the funny one."

She's also pleased with the direction the play takes. "It's a great show for the holidays and is true to Dickens' text," explained Lynch. "It's an absolute drama, done with the honesty and complete truth that Dickens wanted. And it's so touching that it's adapted this way by Mr. Monk."

Her off-stage role designing and sewing some 25 costumes is also crucial to the play's success. "The Cappies regulations say that, to be nominated in this category, the majority of the costumes have to be designed and sewn by students," she said.

Kelly Sharon, who plays Fan, Scrooge's sister, helped sew; and Molly Bridenbaugh, who portrays a businesswoman, helped cut out patterns. Lynch began designing in early November and said they're creating dresses, skirts, suits, vests, women's blouses and pants.

"It's hard because I have rehearsals at school for acting, and then I go home and sew — and then there's homework," she said. "But I'm having fun and learning a lot, so it's good. My mentor is Kate Mahoney — a Chantilly grad who was a costumer at the drama department here — and she's helped me pick out the right fabrics and patterns. I'm hoping the costumes will all look really cool."

"Senior Mike Deveney, 17, plays the Ghost of Christmas Present. "My job is to take Ebenezer Scrooge around and show him the Christmases going on in the present day," he said. "He sees the Christmas at his nephew Fred's house and what he's missing because of his humbug attitude toward Christmas."

AT THE Cratchits', Scrooge sees that the family doesn't need money to be happy, but also that Tiny Tim might die if someone doesn't help him. As one of the ghosts, said Deveney, "I'm hoping he'll change his ways, keep Christmas in his heart and be kind to people."

He likes his role because his, particular ghost is jolly and filled with Christmas spirit. "But then I get mad at Scrooge for not helping the Cratchits so I get to show different emotions," he said. Deveney, too, believes the audience will enjoy the show because "the tech work will be pretty amazing and the set will be cool."

As the Ghost of Christmas Future, David Wyant, 17, shows Scrooge what'll happen to him and those around him if he doesn't change. "I'm the scary figure — I'm hooded and don't talk; I just point," said Wyant. "I'm enjoying it; it makes you think about Christmas and what it means."

Senior Melissa Klein is the Ghost of Christmas Past. Wearing a white, flowing gown, she shows Scrooge his past. "I'm like a therapist in that I ask him questions and let him discover what he's done and how he's changed," she explained. "He realizes on his own that his past was good and he's changed for the worst." And noting that even the actors are wielding hammers to help construct the set, she said it's really a "collaborative show."

Portraying Scrooge's deceased, former business partner, Jacob Marley, is Jae Laroya, 17. "He comes to Scrooge as a Ghost on Christmas Even and warns him of the consequences if he doesn't change his way of life," said Laroya. "Jacob lived the same way Scrooge did — everything revolved around wealth — and he now wears chains around his neck."

Laroya said the role's complexity adds to his acting range. "I've never played such a tortured, depressed, self-hating character, and I like its darkness and creepiness," he said. "And playing a ghost leaves it open to the actor's interpretation."

Head set designer is Marley Monk, 16, who won a Cappie in June in this category. Her crew had only a week to build and erect the set, so the students pre-built much of it and put it all together, last Sunday. "It's very stylistic with lots of platforms," she said. "Since the past and future aren't really there, you want to make it a fantasy — like the visions of memories. It's a big undertaking, but I think it'll be pretty striking."

Monk said the hardest part is using the script to figure out the blocking, entrances and exits because "you can build a really cool set but, if it's not functional, it doesn't really matter." The best part, she said, is "seeing it all come together and working."