Jared Mongeau was 9 years old when he performed in the Portland Stage production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” for the first time. That was 20 years ago, and he played Tiny Tim, the infirm son of Bob and Mrs. Cratchit.

Jared Mongeau as a 9-year-old being outfitted as Tiny Tim at Portland Stage. Courtesy of Portland Stage

What he remembers most from that production was the sense of urgency of everyone involved. The wounds of 9/11 were still raw, and during an early gathering of the cast and ensemble, Anita Stewart, who directed the show and leads the theater today, talked about what was at stake with their performances. “Anita was saying how the story of the show is important every year to tell, but given the events and the state of everything, she felt it was an extremely important year to tell the story well, because the compassion of the show was so needed,” he said.

Mongeau, now 29, is back this year as Nephew Fred, and said this year’s cast is preparing for the play with the same urgency of 20 years ago. “With COVID and everything else, this is an opportunity to say something that can be helpful to society as a whole, and maybe provide some healing,” he said.

Jared Mongeau dressed as Nephew Fred in this year’s production of “A Christmas Carol.” Courtesy of Portland Stage Company

Portland Stage opens “A Christmas Carol” on Dec. 4, and it will run through Dec. 24. A digital-on-demand version of the play will be available Dec. 15 through Jan. 7. The story seems so ageless that its plot might feel routine, but it bears reminding that “A Christmas Carol” is a story of the redemption of the sour Ebenezer Scrooge, who preferred to make his underpaid and undervalued minions work on Christmas than let them stay home with their families.

Bob Cratchit, the working-class clerk in Scrooge’s employ, and his family suffer from the miserly man’s miserable ways. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge goes places in the horrible depths of his nightmares that he cannot reconcile, and awakens a changed man. Realizing that it is not too late to still do the right thing, he immediately begins sharing his wealth with his community for the betterment of all.

Mongeau, who lives in Cumberland, performed in “A Christmas Carol” for two more years after his debut as Tiny Tim, and eventually established a career in clowning and physical theater, touring with Circus Smirkus, among others. This is his first time back at Portland Stage since then, though he has performed locally with Good Theater in recent years and will again in 2022.

“A Christmas Carol” at Portland Stage, 25A Forest Ave., Dec. 4-24; $20 to $65; portlandstage.org.

Fenix Theatre Company actors, from left, Christopher Holt, James Patefield, and Nolan Ellsworth. Photo by Kat Moraros, courtesy of Fenix Theatre Company

We know Fenix Theatre Company for its deft and adventurous summer performances of Shakespeare and other worthy classics at Deering Oaks park in Portland. For the first time, Fenix presents a winter show and takes it indoors with a music-infused version of “12th Night: A Holiday Celebration of Shakespeare & Song,” Dec. 8-18 at Stevens Square Community Center, 631 Stevens Ave., Portland, the former auditorium of Catherine McAuley High School.

This is the classic Shakespeare comedy “Twelfth Night,” which references Christmas, with a nod to the 12 days of Christmas. Peter Brown, the artist director of Fenix, adapted the original script to include 17 holiday and seasonal songs. “There was so much music written into the play. Shakespeare gave us six songs. But we are not using the original music. We are plugging in holiday music,” Brown said. “Where it made sense to put one in, we put one in. Where it didn’t make sense, we put one in. We are doubling and tripling down. We are having a lot of fun. It’s a comedy, and we are taking a very light touch with it.”

Brown is working with a cast of 11, three of whom also perform on multiple instruments. He called it “one of my favorite casts ever assembled,” noting the presence of leads Casey Turner, Kat Moraros, Christopher Holt, James Patefield and Sean Ramey, among others.

“I admire the work of all of these people so much. I have been thinking about this production for a very long time, and when it came time to cast, I had my top choices. It’s an accomplished group of actors, and they’re all very funny and great to work with,” he said.

Brown has been the theater advisor at Portland High School for 20 years. For the last eight or so years, he and his students have presented an evolving version of this show. He’s thrilled with the chance to present to a wider audience, and hopes it becomes a community holiday happening. “Hopefully it will do well, and it will become a recurring tradition,” he said.

It’s Shakespeare. It has some precedence for attracting the masses. Keeping alive the tradition of theater for all, including the working and chattering classes, Fenix is offering a pay-what-you-can admission policy for all performances, and suggests a donation of $20 per person or $40 per family. Reservations are not necessary. Just come and enjoy the show, and sing a little – and be kind.

“12th Night: A Holiday Celebration of Shakespeare & Song” by Fenix Theatre Company at Stevens Square Community Center, 631 Stevens Ave., Portland, 6:30 p.m. Wednesday to Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 8-18; fenixtheatre.com.


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