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New Dawn Theater opens ‘A Victorian Christmas’

It is a holiday play about hope, change

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During New Dawn’s “A Victorian Christmas,” Launa Kowalski plays Isabella, Brandy Garrow is Catherine and David Puckett acts as Albert Hazlett. (Photo: Beth and Tess Luman)

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The young cast in New Dawn Theater’s “A Victorian Christmas” sing Christmas carols during the performance. (Photo: Beth and Tess Luman)

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Katie Tucker, right, plays Emily Ainsley, who takes care of the little girls in the London orphanage. (Photo: Beth and Tess Luman)

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Rick Jarvis, who plays Penningham, prays with Harrold the angel (John Vanden Oever) watching over him. (Photo: Beth and Tess Luman)

DULUTH — Instead of sitting down on the couch to watch a Christmas flick to get you in the holiday season, New Dawn Theater is opening a new show to spark the giving spirit.

Today through Dec. 22, “A Victorian Christmas” takes the stage with a story of hope and change.

“Every year at Christmas, we do one that is a tear-jerker or that pulls at the heart strings,” director Sherry Ingbritsen said. “This year, our play is both. It’s a cross between ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ ‘A Christmas Carol,’ ‘Oliver’ and ‘Annie.’”

Set in London during the late 1800s, the show opens with Harrold (played by John Vanden Oever), the angel who is on an assignment from God. He needs to help change the heart of a greedy, bitter man named Aloysius Penningham (Rick Jarvis).

He owns an orphanage, which is late on its rent. Emily Ainsley (Katie Tucker) is trying to provide a home to young orphans.

The idealistic woman tries to persuade him to give her an extension on the payments. Instead, he decides he needs to shut the building, tossing the children to the streets.

Penningham is visited by Harrold to change his ways while other people attempt to help Emily in her time of need. There is a trio of children pickpockets (Marshall and Madison Vanden Oever with Demi Lehman) creates havoc and humor — and they’re also working for the grumpy businessman.

And that’s just one piece to the puzzle.

Another family in London also becomes a part of the story. Mother Isabella (Launa Kowalski) and daughter Catherine Fitzroy-Palmer (Brandy Garrow) are on the search for their long-lost relative. Everyone’s paths eventually cross and the meaning of Christmas spirit is shown through nice deeds.

Since it is a period piece, New Dawn’s crew worked diligently on everything from the set to the costumes.

“Some of the costumes are handmade, others are from our costume clothes and the rest were purchased,” Ingbritsen said. “But most of them were handmade just for this show.”

The crew wasn’t able to start the four-scene set until the week of Thanksgiving, since there was another performance using the stage. But after days of hard work, the atmosphere was created.

“We’ve put a lot into this one,” Ingbritsen said. “We think our audiences will love it.”

During select dates through Dec. 21, New Dawn is presenting another play on the same stage called “The Santa Games.”

This performance is acted out by the young thespians of the theater.

Written by board members Sandy and John Laszlo, the story follows a group of children who have entered a contest to meet Santa Claus. Needless to say, the two winners are disappointed with their results.

“It’s a really cute show,” director Debbie Bush said. “The kids are really enjoying being on the stage.”