November 18, 2010

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


A new old Carol
Joel Mercier twists a timeless tale

By Adam Coughlin acoughlin@hippopress.com.

In Charles Dickens’ masterpiece, A Christmas Carol, Ebenezer Scrooge has a series of dreams that show him what life was, is and could be. Joel Mercier also had a dream. His dream was to make the fabled story his own. But this dream took a little longer than one Christmas eve.

While attending the Hartt School in Connecticut, Mercier majored in musical theater and aspired to become an actor. The conservatory was very demanding and there was little time for a minor. But Mercier wanted more exposure and experience with other aspects of music. So he worked with the head of the music program within the theater division of the school. He did independent studies. One of his projects was to write an original musical.

Mercier had some experience writing children’s musicals from his years growing up in New Hampshire. But he had never attempted a full-length musical before. Not having a book writer, or the time to find a perfect collaborator, he decided to work with an already known story. He chose A Christmas Carol because he believed it was recognizable enough that even if he took some chances and came up short, people would know enough about the story to understand what he was trying to do. He started writing seven years ago.

After college Mercier began his career as an actor and his musical was put on hold. In 2007, he was on a national tour and it was about to end. He knew he would have about a month and a half of free time and he was going to go home and visit with family and friends. He figured while at home he might as well go back to his musical. He hoped to stage a live reading.

“I was in some place strange like Mississippi, calling people on the phone trying to get a place to hold my live reading,” Mercier said. “I am an alumnus of Pinkerton Academy so they kindly let me use the Stockbridge Theatre for almost no charge.” When Mercier returned home he realized he had to quickly write the last three songs to the musical, which he did in a whirl of creativity. He said without asking, local community theaters lent him talent and facilities for rehearsal.

“The generosity was amazing,” Mercier said.

The staged reading had 22 actors and was a big success, as about 100 people turned out to watch. Mercier had it professionally taped so he could go back and see what worked and what failed.

But once again life took over and the script was not fully realized until a year and a half later when Mercier returned to New Hampshire to work as the resident music director of the New London Barn Playhouse, a professional summer stock theater.

“As I was working there year-round it really helped to live in New Hampshire,” Mercier said.

He re-connected with local theater companies, and the Concord Community Players pushed to perform A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story. It took Mercier about a year to warm up to the idea, but eventually he felt his musical was ready for production.

Once the piece was accepted a new challenge arose: putting a staff together.

“It had been years since I had been involved in the New Hampshire scene,” Mercier said. “A lot of the faces had changed. We really wanted to have the best actors and producers associated with our musical. We think we did that.”

Mercier said his time as a professional actor makes him attuned to talent. He said the cast for A Christmas Carol: The Musical Ghost Story is talented.

“The difference between a professional and a community theater actor isn’t talent,” Mercier said. “Both are talented. It is the professional’s dedication to putting in the effort to give up on other things while getting the credentials to become a professional. This is the same for any vocation whether it be an electrician or a businessman.”

Sixty people auditioned for the musical, according to Mercier, who said many community theater programs have trouble getting 20 to 30 people to audition. The cast includes 36 people. Mercier said those involved are excited about the direction he has taken the musical.

“I am trying to really emphasize that this is a unique, almost Tim Burton-esque show,” Mercier said. “It definitely explores the darker side. That doesn’t mean it isn’t family-friendly. This musical will appeal to someone who is sick and tired of the same old A Christmas Carol but also to a Dickens-lover.”

Mercier said much of the dialogue is the same but he has taken the emotional aspects to a higher level. He said Scrooge shut out the world because he didn’t want to feel hurt, loss or rejection. As a result he shut out the positives as well. Then one fateful night, under frightening circumstances, he went on a psychological journey where he was shown the points in his life where everything went wrong.

“When you look at it like that, it is much more than the holiday fable we have made it,” Mercier said. “Mickey Mouse doesn’t quite do it justice.”

Still all the classic elements like Tiny Tim remain. “I love the classic story,” Mercier said. “There are things I would be disappointed with if they weren’t in there.”

One important thing about any holiday classic is to capture the spirit of the season. That is why the Concord Community Players are encouraging everyone who attends the show to donate a non-perishable food item to the Friendly Kitchen. The Players will donate $1 per item for the first 250 items donated. More than that, the Players have performed for the patrons of the Friendly Kitchen, according to Bob Sanders of the Players.

“We sang songs from the musical,” Sanders said. “We’re just trying to lift people’s spirits.”

“It’s a little early for A Christmas Carol,” Mercier said. “But we’re saying it is a great way to start off the season and get everyone into the spirit of Christmas.”


11/11/2010 The uses of creativity, Riverbend One-Act contest sets imaginations free
11/04/2010 A Sophisticated Show, Rajotte directs Cabaret for today's audience
10/28/2010 Curtain Calls
10/21/2010 Celebrity returns: Rachel Dratch
10/14/2010 Curtain Calls
10/07/2010 Telling the Odysey
9/30/2010 Curtain Calls
9/23/2010 City boys, small-town boys
9/16/2010 A play for every sin
9/9/2010 View from the director's chair
9/2/2010 A dark enduring Streetcar
8/26/2010 Popular Shakespeare
8/19/2010 Keene activist remembered
8/12/2010 Alice sings
8/5/2010 Curtain calls
7/29/2010 Comedy, no errors
7/22/2010 Waking up the theater
7/15/2010 Curtain calls
7/8/2010 Free musicals in the park
7/1/2010 Acting careers lofted
6/24/2010 Andy's 40th summer
6/17/2010 Theater as sport
6/10/2010 Free Shakespeare
6/3/2010 Seacoast soap opera
5/27/2010 Curtain calls
5/20/2010 Curtain calls
5/13/2010 From screen to stage
5/6/2010 Drama and dessert
4/29/2010 They want to be big
4/22/2010 Curtain calls
4/15/2010 Grils! Girls! Girls!
4/8/2010 Curtain calls
4/1/2010 Curtain calls
3/25/2010 Part of the action
3/18/2010 Goings on
3/11/2010 Curtain Calls
3/4/2010 Curtain Calls
2/25/2010 Measuring success
2/18/2010 Curtain calls
2/11/2010 Growing up
2/4/2010 Curtain calls
1/28/2010 Curtain calls
1/21/2010 Winnipesaukee Playhouse rolling forward
1/14/2010 Curtain calls
1/7/2010 At the Palace, a comedy
12/31/2009 Musicals, edgy dramas and the Gay Bride of Frankenstein
12/24/2009 Stilts and dalmations
12/17/2009 Curtain calls
12/10/2009 YTP at the Hunt
12/3/2009 Drama and a bunny
11/26/2009 Golda on stage
11/19/2009 One last time
11/12/2009 Chicago and Psycho Beach Party
11/5/2009 Coming up
10/29/2009 Curtain calls
10/22/2009 Stephen Schwartz comes to Stockbridge
10/15/2009 Curtain calls
10/8/2009 Return to Laramie
10/01/2009 Page to stage returns
9/24/2009 Curtain calls
9/17/2009 World War II and hair salon
9/10/2009 Curtain calls
9/3/2009 Curtain calls
8/27/2009 Curtain calls
8/20/2009 Letter from backstage
8/13/2009 Curtain calls
8/6/2009 Curtain calls
7/30/2009 Finding direction
7/23/2009 Theater on the grass
7/16/2009 Germany, France and England
7/9/2009 The Bard and Disney!
7/02/2009 Robots!
6/25/2009 Curtain calls
6/18/2009 Altered souls
6/11/2009 Curtain calls
6/4/2009 Curtain calls
5/28/2009 This one time at theater camp ...
5/21/2009 Curtain calls
5/14/2009 Curtain calls
5/7/2009 Review:Actorsingers produces The Producers
4/30/2009 Journey to and through Motherhood
4/23/2009 Concord does the Full Monty
4/16/2009 Courtroom drama
4/9/2009 Scotland- bound
4/2/2009 Curtain calls
3/26/2009 The original sitcom
3/19/2009 Palace to produce The Producers
3/12/2009 British farce and new romantic comedy
3/5/2009 Curtain calls
2/26/2009 Serious stories
2/19/2009 Curtain calls
2/12/2009 On Golden Pond writer honored
2/5/2009 Divorce and death
1/29/2009 Red carpet?
1/22/2009 Curtain calls
1/15/2009 Money, powqer and family
1/8/2009 Offer your two cents
1/1/2009 Tapping into the spotlight
12/25/2008 Curtain calls
12/18/2008 BIg things that come in envelopes
12/11/2008 Curtiain calls
12/04/2008 Remains of an affair
11/27/2008 Ballet — not for the faint of heart
11/20/2008 Mary's new home
11/13/2008 Company, Secret garden and Doubt
11/6/2008 That Broadway sound
10/30/2008 Curtain calls
10/23/2008 Busy theaters
10/16/2008 All in one weekend
10/9/2008 Merrimack Rep at 20
10/2/2008 Curtain calls
9/25/2008 Curtain calls
9/18/2008 Stage sports
9/11/2008 Second Life to the rescue
9/4/2008 Curtain calls
8/28/2008 Tennessee Williams at Weirs
8/21/2008 Change for the moment
8/14/2008 Curtain calls
8/7/2008 Wicked experience
7/31/2008 Merry tales
7/24/2008 Review: the great outdoors
7/17/2008 Curtain calls
7/10/2008 Musical monsters
7/3/2008 Curtain calls
6/26/2008 Curtain calls
6/19/2008 Summer stock
6/12/2008 Curtain calls
6/5/2008 This one time, at drama camp...
5/29/2008 Curtain calls
5/22/2008 Making it big
5/15/2008 Curtain calls
5/8/2008 Curtain calls
5/1/2008 Forging ahead
4/24/2008 The Bard, condensed
4/17/2008 'Balance' in Bedford
4/10/2008 Curtain calls
4/3/2008 Singing for a cause
3/27/2008 These aren't recitals folks
3/20/2008 Albee at MRT
3/13/2008 Murder and rhinos
3/6/2008 Murder and rhinos
2/28/2008 The art of theater criticism
2/21/2008 Breaking the cycle
2/14/2008 Curtain Calls
2/7/2008 NH Theatre awards sixth year
1/31/2008 Elvis fans and ghost stories
1/24/2008 Building an audience
1/17/2008 Curtain Calls
1/10/2008 Fate of Annicchiarico
1/3/2008 A little confidence
12/27/2007 Stage notables in 2007
12/20/2007 If all they want for Christmas is two good seats ...
12/13/2007 Summer stock vs. southern NH
12/06/2007 Curtain Calls
11/29/2007 Curtain Calls
11/22/2007 Broadway composer and actress hit Granite State
11/15/2007 One-man play turns audience into students
11/8/2007 Curtain calls
11/1/2007 First times
10/25/2007 Curtain Calls
10/18/2007 Curtain Calls
10/11/2007 American History
10/04/2007 Active in the community
9/27/2007 Stringing single
9/20/2007 Curtain Calls
9/13/2007 Free range
9/6/2007 Curtain Calls
8/30/2007 Curtain Calls
8/23/2007 Curtain Calls
8/16/2007 Curtain Calls
8/9/2007 Curtain Calls
8/2/2007 That deaf, dumb and blind kid
7/26/2007 Potty humor
7/19/2007 Ease on down the road
7/12/2007 Jekyll vs. Hyde
7/5/2007 If it's free, it's for me
6/28/2007 Transformations
6/21/2007 Curtain calls
6/14/2007 No really, you'll get it
6/7/2007 Curtain calls
5/31/2007 Curtain calls
5/24/2007 Putting the camp in camp
5/17/2007 Curtain Calls
5/10/2007 Curtain Calls
5/3/2007 Curtain Calls
4/26/2007 Still going strong
4/19/2007 Vietnam the the Palace
4/12/2007 Confluence
4/5/2007 First look
3/29/2007 Reluctant star
3/15/2007 In a town far away
3/8/2007 Curtain calls
3/1/2007 Into the future
2/22/2007 But will it play in New Hampshire
2/15/2007 Curtain calls
2/8/2007 Family affair
2/1/2007 Curtain calls
1/25/2007 Curtain calls
1/18/2007 Curtain calls
1/11/2007 Curtain calls
1/4/2007 Fork in the road
12/28/2006 Standout performances of '06
12/21/2006 Curtain Calls
12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palace’s Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad it’s over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
It’s cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesn’t lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxi’s driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Players’ Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid
Plaid (II)
Playing with man’s best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace
Tosca
Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid
Wake up to ‘night Mother