By Crystal McGough, Associate Editor
LEEDS – If you have ever found yourself wondering what might have inspired Charles Dickens to write “A Christmas Carol,” or what if Mr. Dickens, himself, had been visited by his three ghostly friends, then the Leeds/Moody Area Kids Acting Class has a show for you.
This weekend, the acting class will perform “A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens Jr.,” a play based on the 44th book from Mary Pope Osborne’s Magic Tree House series. The play will be performed at the Leeds Theatre and Arts Center, opening Friday, Dec. 16, at 7 p.m.
Theater-goers will have two opportunities to see the show Saturday, with a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7 p.m. evening performance, and the final performance will be Sunday, Dec. 18, at 2 p.m.
“This is a ‘Magic Treehouse’ book, brought to the stage,” Director Victoria Boyce said. “I grew up on those books as a child, so when I saw the script, I really wanted to do it and I’m so glad we got to. The kids have been great.”
The main characters in “A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens Jr.” are Jack and Annie, a brother and sister who find a magic tree house in the woods that allows them to travel into the worlds of the books they read. Jack is played by 10-year-old Eli Duckworth and Annie is played by 13-year-old Rachel Platt.
Rachel’s older sister, Rebekah Platt, 15, plays the role of Morgan, an enchantress from Camelot who owns the magic treehouse along with Merlin the magician, who is played by 18-year-old Kane Dillingham.
“In this play, Jack and Annie are sent back on a mission from Morgan and Merlin,” Boyce said. “They are sent to help the writer Charles Dickens (played by Anna Nicholas) continue writing because he is feeling very guilty. He’s feeling like he lives a very pleasured life, a very well-off life, but he came from not much and he is always thinking about the common man and their struggles. You can see that in his writing with ‘Oliver Twist’ and ‘Nicholas Nickleby.’ But, because of his guilt of having a better life while other people don’t, he wants to stop writing. Annie and Jack actually kind of bring to life the ghosts that he writes about in ‘A Christmas Carol’ and they come to him, instead, to help him see why he should keep writing.”
With 45 different roles to fill and only 17 actors finishing out the class this semester, Boyce said that most of the actors are performing multiple roles.
First-time actor Sasha Caballero, 8, who plays the roles of Colin, Sara and Orphan #1, said her favorite character is Colin, a chimney sweep who trades clothes with Annie and Jack in order to help them gain access to Mr. Dickens.
“I really like the acting,” said Caballero, who added that she also enjoys singing and making music.
Kane Dillingham, who was originally an assistant director before stepping in to fill the role of Merlin, said this is his fourth performance with the acting class. Already graduated from high school, Dillingham said that he will return to the assistant director role next semester and also has future plans to attend Jefferson State Community College for a degree in Fundamentals of Directing.
“I’ve had a lot of fun and I’m really excited for this show to actually be put on,” he said. “I think we have a wonderful cast that has worked really hard. And when I say wonderful, I don’t just mean on stage; I mean wonderful people, too.”
Rebekah Platt, who plays Morgan, said she decided to audition for this play after performing in “High School Musical” with the Leeds Art Council.
“Mrs. Victoria (Boyce) was my director there and I had such a good experience I wanted to try again,” Platt said. “I’ve had a fun time. I also get to do this with my little sister who is playing the lead, Annie, so it’s just something that we get to do together, which is really fun. I think it’s a very good opportunity for us to bond more.”
Whether you have a kid in the play or not, Boyce said that she encourages everyone to come out to see “A Ghost Tale for Mr. Dickens Jr.” this weekend.
“These kids have put a lot of hard work into it and once you’re in the audience, you’re going to see that it’s not just a kids show,” she said. “You’re going to enjoy it, especially if you read the Magic Treehouse books or your children read them. I grew up on them, so it’s absolutely been a joy working on it, seeing the books that I read come to life.”
The show will last a little over an hour, with a 15-minute intermission allowing guests to get concessions, if desired. Tickets are $10 per person and can be purchased at the door or in advance at lac.booktix.com.
“This is an opportunity to come see some children who have been working really hard and to support young actors who are really wanting to learn more,” Rebekah Platt said. “I think it’s really cool to see a community working together.”
For more information about the Leeds/Moody Area Kids Acting Class, call or text Victoria Boyce at (205) 285-7635, or look up “leedsmoodyareakidsactingclass” on Instagram.