Red is a grump. He’s peevish, petulant and prickly, a regular Scrooge.
Christmas has lost its magic for Red, but a long line of customers at his Christmas tree lot might just change his mind. That’s the hope in the Benson Foundation for the Arts’ latest production, “A Christmas Stand: Songs of the Season.”
The play is an original from the mind of actor Anthony Angelico in his first foray as writer and director in his hometown of Benson.
The show follows Red, played by Dennis Jernigan, and his sidekick Holly, played by Lindsey Hayes, as Red rediscovers the meaning and magic of the holiday.
“It’s an original take on Scrooge,” Angelico said of the play he spent three months writing. “Red’s hardened and angered by the season. ... It’s really lost it’s magic for him. His Christmas wish is snow, but he’s given up on it. But over the course of the play, the customers change his heart.”
The cast of more than 30 features actors ages 5 to 45, Angelico said, and while many cast members come from Johnston, others are from Wake and Harnett counties.
None of the parts are small ones. Everyone who auditioned got a part because Angelico wrote one for everyone – every cast member gets a speaking and a singing role.
“It’s written with everyone in mind,” Angelico said.
Jernigan, who plays Red, is far from the ornery character he portrays and cracked smiles even when directed to be surly. The Benson resident said he took his first stage role at the behest of his daughter, Ava Grace, who also performs in the show and has appeared in other local productions.
“She pouted ... and I had to say yes,” Jernigan said of being wrapped around his daughter’s finger. “But all I had to do was watch her – she’s amazing – and I knew I could do it for her. It’s a nice father-daughter thing for us. It’s going to be great.”
The show has 16 musical numbers, including familiar Christmas favorites and Top 40 tunes. Audience participation is a big part of the appeal, Angelico said.
“Singing along is definitely encouraged,” he said. “This is a show with familiar music, but because it’s original, it’s a story no one has seen before, and it includes a few surprises.”
Hayes, who plays Holly, says the show will appeal to the whole family. “I’m really excited,” he said. “It’s heartfelt, funny, a little quirky and sometimes sassy. I think it will really help bring people together.”
Hayes’ cast mates include Savannah Price, 12, of Garner, Brianna Mayenschein, 14, of Four Oaks and Layna Swann, 10, of Benson. They share Hayes’ enthusiasm for the show.
“It’s a lot of fun, and we have really good singers,” Price said. “It’s a way for people to come and celebrate Christmas with others.”
“I think people should come so they can have fun and sing along with songs they know and have a good time,” Swann added.
The show is all about celebrating the magic of the season, Agelico said. “I love Christmas and not many towns do holiday-themed productions,” he said of his inspiration for the show. “I’m so proud of this cast. It’s going to be a great, uplifting and heart-warming show.”
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett
Want to go?
What: “A Christmas Stand: Songs of the Season,” a Benson Foundation for the Arts production.
When: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18-19 and 3 p.m. Nov. 20.
Where: the W.J. Barefoot Auditorium, 303 Church St., Benson.
Tickets: $12, or $10 for groups of 10 or more. They’re available by calling the Benson Chamber of Commerce at 919-894-3825. Also, tickets will likely be available at the door.