By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Gregg Murdock has directed a handful of plays for Stained Glass Theatre, but the one that opens tonight will be his favorite.
"'A Christmas Carol' is my favorite fictional story that's ever been written," said Murdock of Charles Dickens' most iconic work. "I have just loved getting the chance to direct it. I am thrilled with the performances so far. It will be a great evening of entertainment -- just an outstanding performance."
The story resonates with him, he said, because of what readers -- or in this case, audiences -- can take away from it.
"It is so brief, but so powerful, and the message speaks of redemption and of getting caught up in the world and forgetting how important people are," Murdock said. "It's a message that resonates well in a culture in which we have everything we want materialistically speaking. It's easy to lose track of what's important, and I believe this helps focus our attention back on what's important."
It also represents the official beginning of the group's fundraising efforts to build a new Stained Glass Theatre in Joplin after the 2011 leveled their home at 1318 W. 26th St. east of St. John's Regional Medical Center. On Nov. 9, the theater officially took possession of more than three acres on the east side of Maiden Lane, on the site of the razed hospital.
Four performances of "A Christmas Carol" will be produced this weekend at Taylor Auditorium on the campus of Missouri Southern State University. It's by far their biggest venue yet, Murdock said, and necessary because the show is their biggest yet.
"We have 68 members just in the cast alone, and another 10 in the crew backstage and running lights and sounds," Murdock said. "This is the largest one I've ever done."
Principal characters include Ebeneezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted, greedy business owner played by Dave Smith; Bob Cratchit, Scrooge's abused, underpaid clerk played by Charlie Brown; and Scrooge's nephew, Fred, who is kind-hearted and loves Christmas and is played by Jake Knorpp.
In an interesting twist, the Ghost of Christmas Past is being played by an international exchange student at Joplin High School, Yekaterina Fedulova, of Russia.
Audiences can expect a faithful adaptation of Dickens' original story, as the script is taken directly from the book. They also can expect wonderful costumes, many of which were borrowed from area theaters, high school theater departments, or were donated from throughout the region after the tornado.
The show's running time is 90 minutes, and there will be an intermission of 15 to 30 minutes. Concessions will be available.
Want to go?
Performances will be held at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are available Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children ages 4 to 13. Children age 3 and younger are free. They may be ordered at 417-626-1293 or at www.sgtjoplin.org.