SARATOGA SPRINGS – I knew when I walked in that this was going to be fun.
Saratoga Children’s Theatre (SCT) is in the midst of prepping for its production of A Christmas Carol, and a cross-section of their rich talent pool made a pit-stop for some refreshments. We came upon them on Black Friday, which curiously never existed in Mr. Marley’s day.
We got to meet Scrooge, played by Conan Madigan, Belle Cucinella is Scrooge’s tenant Mrs. Smythe, Sarah Bolles, a fourth grade acolyte and Egan Mills who is Scrooge’s girlfriend, Emily. The cast was serious as they noted how much of the script had yet to be touched, but also exhibited a calm that only comes from the confidence of having talent.
No one seemed worried at all, not even Meg Kelly, SCT executive director who is in charge of worrying about such things. Nope, all seemed in control, which gave us a chance to get to know some cool young adults. Except for Sarah, they all happen to be in ninth grade.
When talking to them, that was often easy to forget. Because they are growing, but at the age where they don’t have to decide what they are going “to be when they grow up,” and yields a humorous, carefree attitude that is amusing.
Belle Cucinella is making her SCT debut, having moved from Northville with her family two years ago. She can be regarded as akin to a major free-agent pickup. She was Annie for the adult troupe “Hand in Glove” that holds down the historic Glove Theater in Gloversville, plays both sax and flute — the latter in the Saratoga Springs High School band for “Godspell.”
Egan Mills has a rich SCT resume, but wait a minute, how does Scrooge get a girlfriend? “Our Chrismas Carol is the musical version, like the movie with Kelsey Grammar,” she explains. And so we see “Emily” as a vision in Scrooge’s past, they were engaged, but alas, Emily gives the ring back to Scrooge, losing his one lifelong love.
I’m not sure whether Conan Madigan believes it is better to have loved and lost, but I am sure that the moody Scrooge is a seminal role for his development. Conan is versatile enough to be Daddy Warbucks in middle school, yet “I always enjoy playing the bad guy,” he said, which led to fellow cast members nodding in agreement about his skill set.
I mentioned to him that had Scrooge not ended up happily ever after, but stayed miserly to the end, he would seem to enjoy gauging his performance by the robust booing he might receive, in the manner of the wicked witch of the west in Oz and it was as if a light came on, he agreed so readily. He’s someone to watch as he delves further into his inner Darth-ness in future roles.
Sarah Bolles, though a fourth grader at Geyser Elementary is a seasoned SCT veteran who averages three SCT roles each year “since 2011,” she said. Viola is her instrument of choice for the school orchestra and she had absolutely no doubt that her favorite role was that of Penny in Honk, the Ugly Duckling story.
What is most interesting is how Sarah came to life when discussing her artistic side. Even though she has accompanied dad Mark to countless photo shoots for Saratoga TODAY before, I really felt I was meeting her for the first time.
And that’s the essence of what this theater company provides. Let’s face facts; we’re talking some pretty bright young adults here. But talent must have the proper outlet to maximize itself and so this is a reason to say: God bless them all, everyone.
Saratoga Children’s Theatre
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol
Directed by Jim Charles
Friday, December 13 at 7 p.m.
Saturday, December 14 at 2 and 7p.m.
The Saratoga Music Hall
474 Broadway, Saratoga Springs
City Hall, 3rd Floor
$10 Adults, $5 Children
(BOGO coupon available)