Today, a new digital musical, Estella Scrooge, has been announced. Produced by Michael Jackowitz of Witzend Productions, David Bryant, and Michael Aldenare, this new John Caird, Paul Gordon Christmas musical takes to the stage this week, one actor at a time.
“Estella Scrooge is a young Wall Street tycoon with a penchant for foreclosing. A hotelier in her hometown of Pickwick, Ohio has defaulted on his mortgage loan and Estella fancies the idea of doing the deed personally. Arriving at Harthouse on Christmas Eve, Estella discovers that the defaulting party is none other than her childhood sweetheart, Pip Nickelby. Always the humanitarian, Pip has generously transformed the property into a refuge for the sick, dispossessed, and homeless. A freak snowstorm (in Pickwick?) forces Estella to take refuge herself. That night, as it happened to her ancestor Ebenezer long ago, she too is haunted by three visitations…and oh what uninvited midnight houseguests they are!”
With a book and direction by Tony Award winner John Caird (Les Misérables, Nicholas Nickelby) and music and lyrics by Tony Award nominee Paul Gordon (Jane Eyre, Daddy Long Legs), Estella Scrooge stars Betsy Wolfe (Waitress) as ‘Estella Scrooge’ and Clifton Duncan (The Play That Goes Wrong) as ‘Philip Nickleby’ and co-stars Tony Award nominee Patrick Page (Hadestown) as ‘Mr. Merdle,’ with Tony Award nominee Carolee Carmello (Mamma Mia) as ‘Marla Havisham’ and Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge) as ‘Ebenezer Scrooge.’ The cast also includes Megan McGinnis (Little Women) as ‘Betty Cratchit,’ Lauren Patten (Jagged Little Pill) as ‘Dawkins,’ Adam Halpin as ‘Bob Cratchit,’ Sarah Litzinger as ‘Sissy Jupe,’ Tom Nelis as ‘Dedlock,’ EM Grosland as ‘Smike,’ Phoenix Best as ‘Charity & Mercy,’ David Bryant (Original Marius, Les Misérables) as ‘Mr. Podsnap,’ Gabrielle Reid as ‘Mrs. Pumblechook,’ Samuel Lee Roberts as ‘Mr. Flopson,’ Michael Francis McBride as ‘Mr. Dombey,’ Michele Lee as ‘Mrs. Noggs,’Kristen Faith Oei as ‘Ms. Skiffins,’ William Youmans as ‘Magwitch & Bagstock,’ Kevyn Morrow as ‘Jasper Jaggers’ and Willow McCarthy as ‘Tiny Tammy.’
In partnership with Streaming Musicals, the production will be produced and digitally captured live using green screen technology, intricate story-boarding, and virtual sets that will bring this fully realized musical to life and to audiences worldwide, just in time for Christmas.
Streaming Musicals Executive Producer Tom Polum said, “Streaming Musicals is pleased to be part of this groundbreaking new approach to recording an original musical. This is an incredibly talented and organized team of individuals striving to tell a story that is not only a reflection of our times but a nod to great iconic figures of the past.”
Producer Michael Jackowitz said, “I was talking with Kevin Surace, our Executive Producer, about how the ‘Brady Bunch Boxes’ while cool at first, were overstaying their welcome. ‘Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to shoot something in a safe, isolated fashion, but put everyone together in the same frame.’ An experiment was done to test the concept and push the boundaries. Was it possible to shoot an entire musical this way? The answer is YES and what you will see are the fruits of that exciting labor.”
Following the initial digital release of the musical, the literary property will be available for live stage theatrical licensing worldwide.
Director and book writer John Caird said, “I’m so happy to be bringing a new musical to life in these mad and maddening times. Though the whole creative team is having to learn new techniques to bring the actors and their characters together, it’s wonderful to be able to provide employment for the theatre community while we enliven the old Christmas Carol story with a new twist for today. At a time of great conflict and hardship, I hope we can shine a little ray of optimism into the surrounding darkness.”
Estella Scrooge features musical supervision by Brad Haak (Mary Poppins), director of photography and editor Tyler Milliron, production art design by Zach Wilson, costume design by Somie Pak, hair and makeup design by Dena Olivieri, props design by Katherine White, choreography by Natalie Lamonte and casting by Tara Rubin Casting.
Production Art Designer Zach Wilson said, “Working on Estella Scrooge has been a wonderful journey that I think has pushed all of us to rethink the typical ways of doing things in order to create something truly spectacular. This particular medium hasn’t really been explored before, so besides all the usual creation of a production, we’ve had to invent new workflows and completely alter our ways of thinking. In this time when there are many challenges in the way of creating (such as not being in the same space as one another), we’ve not only faced them head-on but discovered facets of these challenges that we can use to the advantage of the production. We haven’t been dwelling on the fact that our usual procedures are currently obstructed, but are using it as an opportunity to expand in different directions. After planning through each line of the show with the team, I’m now creating several hundred images and animations, each with a subtlety impressionistic, Dickensian flair to bring this story to life. The entirety of the film will be filmed in a green screen studio, which means that I am designing completely digital environments which will be married to the footage of the actors. Creating digital environments (especially to this extent) is quite an undertaking in itself, but it opens up possibilities for us that simply aren’t an option during a live stage performance. We’ve had good fun coming up with how to best use this new medium to create a production that will hopefully delight audiences, and stand the test of time. I’m honored to be a part of such a clever, creative, inventive, and wonderful team. Now more than ever, it is so important to infuse art into the world, and the story of Estella is a wonderfully relevant way to do that.”
Costume Designer Somie Pak said, “Designing Estella Scrooge reinforced and reminded me of what I already know to be true: Art is essential. Art is necessary. I cannot begin to describe the feeling of reuniting with the design process and with other artists. I knew I had missed it but I did not realize the magnitude until I was designing again. I felt at home again. I felt like myself again.”
Choreographer Natalie Lamonte said, “Imagine choreographing a dance with bodies who will never enter the same room together, dancers who will never meet in person or touch physically. I am finding a whole new process for planning, rehearsing and creating scenes, working closely with my collaborators to imagine and discover it as we go. So many touchstones have been stripped away, no direct interaction with others, no camera blocking rehearsals, very minimal practical set pieces to interact with, and that natural collaborative magic that surfaces when inspired and talented people share space and come together to build something new and unique. Yet, these restrictions have been the very thing setting me free.”
This Dickensian musical extravaganza is a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol with additional characters and plot lines from “Great Expectations,” “Little Dorritt,” “Bleak House” and other great Dickens’ novels.
Estella Scrooge is executive produced by Kevin Surace, Allan Herzog, and Jeffrey Grove in addition to Tom Polum and Stacia Fernandez (Streaming Musicals).
Estella Scrooge was developed in part at Rhinebeck Writers Retreat with a developmental production at Rubicon Theatre Company (Karyl Lynn Burns and James O’Neill, Artistic Directors).
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