The Northwestern State University Middle Lab Drama Club will perform excerpts from the original musical “EBENEZER,” along with many other skits and songs at the Fall Theatre Showcase at 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 17 in the NSU Middle Lab Auditorium. Dr. Samuel Stokes, teacher of talented music at NSU Middle Lab School and music composition and arranging instructor for Northwestern State University, premiered the original musical “EBENEZER,” based on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” at The Music Studio of Warrensburg in Warrensburg, Missouri, Dec. 1.
“There have been a few different musical versions of “A Christmas Carol” over there years, but “EBENEZER” is unique because it uses a blend of traditional Christmas carols and hip-hop,” according to James Duncan, owner and artistic director of the Music Studio of Warrensburg. “The kids really enjoyed the mix of traditional carols with modern rap style. We all had fun with working the raps out.”
The Music Studio of Warrensburg opened in 2016 and provides music and acting lessons to students of all ages. “EBENEZER” included a wide range of ages in its cast – the youngest was 5 and the oldest in his 70s.
Duncan said the biggest challenge was to get the cast to speak in the more antiquated style of English used in the script. Stokes said the he “really wanted to stay true to Dickens and maintain as much of the original dialogue as possible. Even in the rap verses, I incorporated as much of the original text as I could, but of course took liberties to make them fit the rhythm and rhyme schemes.”
“There was a lot of excitement among the cast to have the opportunity to premiere an original musical and everyone was especially excited to have Dr. Stokes in the house for the weekend, because getting to meet a composer/author isn’t an everyday occurrence for most kids. That brought a lot to what we were doing,” Duncan said.
Stokes, who graduated from the University of Central Missouri with a Bachelor of Music in 2002 and a Master of Arts in 2005, was also excited to return to Warrensburg for the first time in many years.
“It was amazing to see how the town and the campus have changed,” he said. “Warrensburg really seems to be growing and thriving. It was great to visit some of my old professors at UCM and other folks from the Warrensburg community who really supported my musical endeavors when I was a student there.”
Stokes said he would like to expand upon the musical in the future.
“EBENEZER” was originally written as a one-act musical, but I abridged some of the material from the original novel in order to make it more accessible and to require fewer scene changes. In the future, I would like to incorporate some of these other scenes and add some more musical numbers to make it a full two-act musical. I’m going to try to have that done by next Christmas.”
Donations for the NSU Middle Lab Drama program will be collected at the door.
More information about Dr. Stokes and the “EBENEZER” musical can be found at SamuelStokesMusic.com
Pictured above, cast members on front row from left are Colin Watson, Jorja Brandt and Penelope Welker. On the second row are James Duncan, Matilyn Shore, Becky Burns, Kylie Whalan, Molly Houk and composer Samuel Stokes. On back row are Joshua Welker, Dominic Wickware, Chuck Buck, Gregg Burns and Corey Watson.