By STEVE HOWELL
---- — MONTREAL — What would you do with a second chance?
The Rialto Theatre Foundation presents the Charles Dickens seasonal classic “A Christmas Carol” for a nine-performance run beginning tonight.
Directed by Stephen Vincelli and adapted by Barry O’Connell, the Rialto version combines live theater with music — 14 traditional holiday songs in all — and a cast of 20, including the entire Crachit clan, Tiny Tim and the man we all love to hate — Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Canadian actor James Milvain.
“This is a traditional look at the work,” Milvain said.
The classic was first written as a novella by Dickens in 1843. The work has been adapted numerous times for the big screen, as well. This marks Milvain’s second time performing as Scrooge at the Rialto.
“He’s a pretty deep character,” Milvain said. “He’s a curmudgeon, he’s cranky, he’s ornery, and downright mean.”
Above all said about Scrooge’s "Debbie Downer" attitude, Milvain says, there are reasons behind his grouchy demeanor.
“He’s also very lonely. And he’s had some tragedy in his life,” Milvain said. “There are always reasons why people are the way they are.”
Milvain says that even though the story is so well known, the audience still needs the gentle reminder of this tale of redemption and second chances.
“Probably a lot of people out there know it word for word,” Milvain said. “But they still come to see it with great anticipation. To actually see it unfold is always new again.”
Part of the newness comes with the cache of live music and holiday songs. There are 14 traditional songs and carols sung during the production.
“All of this great music and stage movement happens throughout the show,” said Milvain, who adds the live soundtrack occasionally turns into a sing-along.
“People get to sing a few of their old favorites, stomp their feet and clap their hands. Oh, the audience absolutely joins in.”
Milvain says this holiday classic will always remain timeless.
“It’s an epiphany. It’s the moment Scrooge begs to have a second chance, to live his life over in a better way. I think that’s what really gets everybody. We really do have a second chance just to do it all over again.”
“A Christmas Carol” opens tonight at Rialto Hall of Theatre Rialto. Additional evening performances are held Dec. 14, 15, 19, 20, 21 and 22. Show time is at 7:30 p.m. There are 2 p.m. matinee performances held on Dec. 15 and 23. General admission costs $25 for adults and $20 for students and seniors.
The Rialto also hosts a number of other upcoming unique live productions.
“Big Band Party” combines cabaret, costumes and dinner theater tonight, Dec. 14 and 31. Dinner and show costs $75 for tonight and tomorrow’s performance; it's $130 on New Year’s Eve.
Rialto Swing combines swing classes, a dance show and a live orchestra swing band on Dec. 20. Swing classes run 8:30 to 9:30 p.m.; dance show is a 10 p.m. Tickets cost $15.
Replay the Beatles covers 34 Fab Four classics Dec. 22. General admission balcony seating costs $25; reserved seating, $40; dinner and show, $75.
Then, the Rialto and Mountain Lake PBS team up for a little British pomp with “An Evening Inspired by Downton Abbey.” In support of the PBS hit drama, the evening combines a fancy Edwardian-style winter dinner (formal attire recommended) and a silent auction hosted by master of ceremonies Robert Scully of "Scully The World Show." It’s held at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 5.
The event is a fundraiser for Mountain Lake PBS. Donations for one start at $150.
Theatre Rialto is at 5723 Ave. du Parc. For more information, call the box office at (514) 770-7773 or visit www.theatrerialto.ca.