This Sunday December 10th, Spec Labs is bringing Christmas to town with a modern twist on a classic Holiday tale! Join us at the Theatre 68 Arts Complex in North Hollywood to enjoy the cheerful work of our brilliant puppeteers and a live band performing original songs and score. The production's original score features the work of several Spec Labs' musicians, including Atticus Jackson, Paul Christenson, Chris Acevedo, Jacob Lenard, and Noam Almog. The show will also feature set design by the talented Faith Butterfield, a Spec Labs artist who also created the poster art for A Specmas Carol!
A Specmas Carol was written by the show's director, Cathy McAuley, and long-time Spec Labs instructor, Olivia Brazill, who also co-wrote the music with Spec Labs' co-founder Garth Herberg. The show is based on Charles Dickens’ beloved novella, A Christmas Carol, which follows the curmudgeonly Ebenezer Scrooge as he’s forced to reckon with his own misdeeds via visits from the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. A Specmas Carol pays faithful tribute to the heart of Dickens’ story, but amps up the excitement with a colorful cast of puppets, an updated technological twist, and heartfelt original songs.
Ebenezer Scrooge still takes center stage in A Specmas Carol, but this time he is accompanied by an absent father, a cheeky mother, and his neglected son, Ebbie. The Scrooges come from a long line of inventors, revolutionaries, and workaholic fathers that forget to pay attention to their kids. The strained relationship between Scrooge and his young son, Ebbie, is one of the main conflicts in the show, as well as the unintended effects of one of Scrooge’s inventions: Blindervision. Originally created as a gift from a never-present father to his melancholy son, these virtual reality specs take a toll on the Scrooges and the community they live in. The show mixes modern technology with classic themes of family and connection to create a festively fun Holiday musical!
At last week’s A Specmas Carol rehearsal, I stopped by to get the inside scoop on this very merry Christmas show. During rehearsal, director and Spec Labs’ Voiceover Department Head, Cathy McAuley, guided the actors and their puppet companions around the stage, helping each of them find their marks and their voices. Nearby, composer and band leader Garth Herberg sat at his piano ready to musically transition from scene to scene or kick off a puppeteer’s solo with some magical keys.
With everyone’s lines mostly down to a tee, the rehearsal focused on fine-tuning the puppeteers' emotional and physical performances and learning their musical cues. Melodic transitions allow the scene-setting slides to switch into place. They also give the actors a beat to set the tone for the next scene. In one such transition, Ebbie is in back-to-back scenes, one in his grandfather’s workshop and the other in his bedroom. This transition requires actor Jake Tashjian to stay on stage for the whole sequence. Instead of having him stand idly by as the music plays, McAuley uses the transitional tune as an acting tool. She works with Tashjian to convey meaning through the movements and expressions of both Tashjian and his puppet.
Making a puppet emote is no easy feat, but the Specmas Carol puppeteers get the job done jolly well. Combining the movements of both actor and puppet with just the right vocal intonations easily brings these three-dimensional characters to life. And when you mix stellar acting with some magical musical performances, Puppet and Puppeteer become one as they move across the stage in mimicked fashion.
Things really kick into high gear when the ghosts of Holiday past, present, and future appear and throw Scrooge’s life into perspective. A wizard, a robot, and a skeleton strike fear into Scrooge’s heart with memories, futures, and some catchy, foreboding tunes. A particularly fun duet between the Wizard and Scrooge kickstarts Scrooge’s journey of self-reflection. From wistful ballads to 80s synth tunes, A Specmas Carol has genre-spanning musical numbers that invite the audience to join this storybook wonderland.
Our Holiday spectacular was also featured in a segment on Spectrum One News this week. Check out what our show-stopping puppeteers had to say about Spec Labs and A Specmas Carol in the clip below!
A Specmas Carol will be a Holiday show for the ages and might just become your favorite adaptation of the classic Dickens tale. The amazing work of our Spec Labs’ Voiceover and Music students will undoubtedly make your Holiday season extra merry and bright!
Don’t be a Scrooge–make sure you’re there for this incredible night of music, puppets, and Specmas cheer! There are only seven tickets left for our 8:30 pm show and our 6:15 pm show is already sold out! Grab yours now before they’re gone at www.speclabs.org and fill your heart with Spec Labs’ Christmas joy! Thank you so much to everyone who has already bought a ticket--we can't wait to put on a great show for you!
If you haven’t already, please consider donating to Spec Labs’ 2023 Giving Campaign so that we can continue to make the Holidays, and every other day, filled with fun for our student artists!
We hope you’ll come have a jingle ball with us this Sunday!
-Michael Ware, Spectrum Laboratory